INTERVIEW: Bisola

INTERVIEW:

 

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Bisola

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IT is tricky defining what really makes an artist stand…

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out from everyone out there. Similarly, it can be a right pickle deciphering what separates a really great song from an average one. For me, personally, I look for something life-affirming and uplifting. If you are in a similar mainframe, Bisola is the musician for you. Honing her skills since the age of thirteen; the London-based singer-songwriter released her debut E.P., Holding on to the Light, in 2013 – it was met with huge applause and positive reviews. Million Miles is her new track and signals future release: a moment of musical brilliance capable of entrancing every listener. I was eager to learn more about the woman behind the music. Bisola talks about her upbringing and musical progression; where she is heading this year and a little insight behind Million Miles.

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

It’s been non-stop actually since the single came out: lots to do around promoting the single. It’s funny. It’s been a lot of work to get the music recorded, music video and (completing) promo shoots. Once the track has been released, I’m still working just as hard, if not harder

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

I’m a singer-songwriter. My thing is inspirational and positive music. I like to call my sound ‘Soulful-Pop’: especially once you hear the tracks on my new E.P. There’s a more mainstream Pop edge to the songs but they still maintain a soulfulness. I think what really defines my music is that I always have a message encouraging people in some way. I try to shine a light ‘in the darkness’.

You have been recording music since the age of thirteen. Were you always interested in music or was there a particular person who got you into it?

I remember my grandma taking me to church when I was (something like) four or five years old. I just remember thinking the music was so beautiful and something about it captured me.

That’s one of my earlier memories of music. I’ve always had a deep connection to it; almost like it’s part of my D.N.A. I’m always humming and listening to music – even if I’m not writing.

Your debut E.P., Holding on to the Light, was released in 2013. How do you think you have changed as an artist since then and what was it like having an E.P. out there?

I’ve definitely pushed myself to newer heights in this new E.P. Lyrically and arrangement-wise, there’s definitely a real sense of maturity and progression when you listen to it. The other big difference with this album is that it’s more personal than past works as I (really) share some of my own personal experiences – which is interesting as I’m naturally a very private person but I really felt like these songs needed to be out there.

 

The Impossible followed that E.P. and reached number five on the Indie Charts. It won huge plaudits from critics. What was it like receiving such accolade and what is the inspiration behind the song?

I was really chuffed the song did so well and that people really responded so positively to it. I wrote this song while on the beach in Miami. I’d just completed a trip around the world. I travelled for about three months just chilling and exploring the world, and while on that beach in Miami, I was thinking about how fortunate I was to have been able to do something like this – that people only dream and wish they could do but never do. I didn’t think it’d be possible either but I’d got to a point in my life earlier that year where I just felt fed up of ‘the rat race’. You know; you wake up, go to work; come back home, sleep; go to work; same routine over and over.

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I was thinking there’s got to be more to life than this. I didn’t have much money saved up or anything, but the moment I made up my mind to chuck it all and go travelling – things literally fell into place to make it happen.

The lesson I learnt from that experience was changing our lives and our circumstances often start with a decision.

If I didn’t make that decision to pursue my dream of travelling around the world I don’t know if the song would ever have been written – so I’m really grateful that I didn’t let fear hold me back. I hope that this inspires someone to go do that thing they’ve been putting off for so long because they think they don’t have what it takes or whatever.

Million Miles is your new song. Can you tell us the story behind it please?

The story wasn’t anything spectacular – I wish I could say otherwise. I realised one New Year’s Eve that I’d not written a single song that year and I decided there and then I wasn’t going to go into the next year without getting a song completed. I already had a melody for the chorus recorded on my phone – a long time ago and – I decided to work with it; something just kept nudging me in the direction of it being a love song. With me not being the world’s most romantic person, I decided to ‘borrow’ the words that couples often say as their wedding vows (when getting married). The song just kinda went from there. I’m particularly excited about it as it’s a lot more up-tempo than the other stuff I’ve written in the past.

What was it like working with producer David Ezra on the track?

Amazing! I love that guy! He and I crack each other up so much and we’re always teasing each other endlessly. He’s a brilliant producer but I’ve also got strong ideas about what I want my music to sound like; so we’re always going back and forth trying to convince each other on who’s right. He’s definitely someone I’d like to keep working with in the future and I highly recommend him to anyone looking for a good-quality producer. He’s very professional and reliable, which for me, is really important – it’s the little things as they say.

The music video seems like it was quite fun to shoot. Whose concept was the video and is that a side of music you enjoy being involved with?

I worked with a bunch of lovely guys up in Manchester who runs a production company called Video Inc. They were really enthusiastic, and more importantly, cost-effective for the final product. We came up with the concept collaboratively. I definitely wanted to convey the wedding vow element to the song as well as (wanted to make sure) it was ‘PG-13-friendly’ as I wanted the video to appeal to everyone. Overall, it’s great to have a music video as people love visuals and it really does bring the song to life; but the process to get one done can be hard work – it didn’t help that the day we did the shoot it was freezing cold. I couldn’t feel my toes and fingers at one point! (ha ha). But I’m really pleased with the video. Everyone says it looks great.

Lessons My Mama Taught Me is your upcoming E.P. (out in March). It has quite a sassy, home-grown title. Are there home truths and cautionary tales on the record? What kind of themes and sounds can one expect?

Yeah. It’s a tribute album to my mum who sadly passed away last year. Although the songs were written at different points before and after she left us, the collection of songs takes the listeners through a journey around the themes of maximising our time and talents; not procrastinating and not being afraid to tell someone how much they mean to you.

London is an important city to you – and one you have performed in a lot. What is it like being a musician in London and how inspiring are the people to your music?

London’s probably the best place to be for music right now. So many venues offer live music and want live music than ever before.

Funny enough, I recently moved just outside London (‘cos it’s so expensive) but I’m in London pretty much every day for work and performances – nothing else really compares to it. I heard Ed Sheeran moved to London before he hit the big time as he realised that’s where he could get the opportunities for his music to be heard – clearly it worked!  I think one of the things that make London so great for music is that it’s so diverse and people are open to giving people a platform to share it.

Your music and voice is really smooth and sensual but has a real power and flair to it. Who were the artists you were brought up and inspired you early?

Whitney, baby! (Whitney Houston). I used to practice singing just like her when I was growing up and hitting all the high notes. Also, Mariah Carey was another artist I used to try and emulate. I think in their prime they were such massive singers and were so good. I thought: yeah I wanna sing like that. They really inspired me for sure. I was also fortunate to have been involved in singing in church for a good few years as that really helped me discovered my own voice and build confidence in my performances

Are there any musicians around at the moment really exciting you that we should all know more about?

I’ve been talking a lot about JP Cooper. He’s starting to get his break – he had a number one track with Jonas Blue last summer and he’s on an upward trajectory. I think what’s exciting about him is that he’s been around for years and years just plugging away and doing his music and not giving up – so it’s so encouraging to see things really starting to happen for him. It certainly gives me hope to carry on what I’m doing!

Looking back on your career to date, which memories stand out as especially memorable?

I think my favourite memory is when I had my launch gig for my first E.P.

The way the E.P. happened was such a quick and amazing experience and so many of my friends turned up to support me on the night – many of them didn’t tell me they were coming: they just showed up at the end of the gig and I was like “whaaaa!”. It was special.

This year has only just begun but you must have plans ahead. What are you most looking forward to or hope to achieve in 2017?

I’m definitely looking forward to the E.P. (coming out) in March. I actually wanted to originally release it in September last year but then the process took a little longer than I anticipated, and in the end, I decided to move it to January. Good thing I did as one of my favourite tracks on the E.P. was written in November and that would’ve missed the E.P. – had I gone with my original September release. Everything really does happen for a reason

What advice would you provide any young songwriter coming through right now?

Never stop writing! Share your music as much as you can – as that’s the way you grow – you discover your own sound and style and can carve out your own niche to set you apart from the crowd.

With platforms like YouTube you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home to share your music. Also, if you can learn to play an instrument (if you don’t already play one) that definitely helps.

I originally didn’t play any instruments when I started writing songs as a kid, but over the years I’ve picked up the guitar and it’s really helped me with writing better songs. I’ll let you into a little secret: I learned to play the guitar from YouTube! (ha ha). I’ve had a handful of lessons with a tutor to help me polish up some elements but I don’t know if I’d have ever have stuck at it if it wasn’t for YouTube. I could learn at my own pace and in my own way.

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

Emeli Sandé’s My Kind of Love. That’s a great track

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Follow Bisola

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Official:

http://bisolamusic.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Bisolamusic/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/bisolamusic

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/bisolamusic

YouTube:

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

 

 

TRACK REVIEW: Alluri – Evari Kosam (For Whose Sake)

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Alluri

 

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Evari Kosam (For Whose Sake)

 

9.2/10

 

 

 

Evari Kosam (For Whose Sake) is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVKabVJElp8&feature=youtu.be

GENRE:

Indie

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

2nd November 2016

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IT is not often I get to review an artist who…

creates something truly universal – singing in another language and offering the listener a glimpse into a rather exotic and different world. Before I come to that (and my featured artist) I wanted to talk about different cultures and travel – and how that can inspire music – in addition to solo artists sourcing from different decades and genres. I will finish by having a look at the different ways songwriters are projecting love and documenting relationship breakdown. One thing that excited me about discovering new music is the places I get to ‘visit’. Although Alluri is based in London, his Indian heritage directly feeds into his music. It has been a while since I’ve reviewed a foreign songwriter so this will be quite interesting. It can be argued how much of one’s culture goes into music – how much of it is enforced by commercial ideals and pressures. I see a lot of artists writing about home and sourcing inspiration from where they live. That not only makes music more personal and flexible: you get a real sense of who the musician is and where they come from. When I’ve reviewed artists from around the world, with each, I get a striking blend of national identity and familiarity. I hate artists that replicate others and simply do what everyone has done before. It is so lamentable and means music becomes over-stuffed with generic and formulaic songs. When you come across a foreign artist; there is instantly something unexpected and curious. In the past few months/year, I have looked at acts like Vanessa Forero – who has Colombian heritage and uses native instruments in her work – in addition to Mexico’s The Peppersplum. With each, I was treated to some ‘mainstream’/everyday sounds but got a real taste of where they came from and the environment they grew up in. That was most striking and pure with Forero – who champions the use of odd and strange woodwind in her music.

She takes from her Colombian lineage and introduces the listener to the kind of instruments she heard as a girl. That can seem like a risky venture in music. If you subject the listener to something rather strange then that runs the risk of them looking elsewhere. One would feel, when hearing about Colombian pipes and instruments, there was a touch of World music about things – a genre that has always struggled for acceptance. True, there was an element of that but you got Pop, Soul and Indie within her music: every track has a different skin and only employed Colombian instruments as a backdrop and emphasis. Hyderabad is the capital of southern India’s Telangaa state. It is one of the most upscale providences of India and houses the technological hub that drives the nation. In addition, it boasts many upscale shops and restaurants; historical sites such as Colconda Fort and a sixteenth-century mosque. Although around thirteen-percentage of the metropolitan area are composed of slums – those living well below the poverty line – Hyderabad has a rich and mixed musical scene. Dances like Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam styles are popular (in Decca especially). Western and Indian popular music are favoured in addition to Filmi music – all of the historical, cultural and cosmopolitan blends would have inspired the young Alluri. Before I continue my points, let me introduce him to you:

Born and raised in Hyderabad, London based Alluri’s latest cut Evari Kosam (For Who’s Sake) is a flawless demonstration of how the music world is a truly universal sphere, which exists only in the cultural blend that shapes its very existence.  

After digesting a diet of classical music as an early teen, an impressionable Alluri’s real music education began after he was gifted a guitar. Immersing himself an artist at a time, he learnt the guitar through the versatile catalogue of British indie of the 80s very finest. With Morrissey proving an overriding influence, it was his introduction to artists like The Doves on his relocation to the UK to study that really fuelled the singer/songwriter within.

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A diarist to his core, Alluri’s songs wrote themselves during a six month travel break between completing his Masters in Finland and returning home to India. Contemplating a return to the setting that shaped him, travelling allowed him to assess how he had changed, provoking the realisation that in London he had been something of an outsider in cultural terms, while simultaneously feeling fully at home in aspects of British life.

Sung in Telugu while boasting a vintage, British sound, Alluri’s Evari Kosam (For Who’s Sake) is the culmination of his journey to date. The original demo was immediately picked up by legendary producers Tommasso Colliva & Massimo Martelotta (Muse).. With Telugu being so similar to Italian, Tommaso instantly bonded with the track, infusing his polished production style with Alluri’s raw songwriting talent. The new single represents a sonic shift in Alluri’s sound, employing an anthemic brass section & piano textures to enchanting effect. The haunting visual, is the brainchild of Indian director Reema Sengupta, Who says: 

“I wanted to make an awkward mood-piece of a lonely young man reeling from a break-up; and the sleeplessness, binge-eating and self-doubt that come with it. The protagonist sits in his own mindspace, littered with the little things he is holding on to – remnants of an ended but far-from-forgotten relationship.”

I love that idea of ‘Indian Indie’ as a concept in music. I have reviewed an Indian artist before (Antriksh Bali) who hails from Delhi. Coming from a different region of India, it is interesting seeing how someone like Alluri differs. I do love to mention influences and inspirations as a way of explaining a musician. In terms of Alluri, you get that distinct flavour of home with a mix of more universal artists. In various songs, you hear acts like Pink Floyd and Doves and get a sense of what influenced the young man. Evari Kosam (For Whose Sake) is performed in (Alluri’s) native tongue, Teluga. I admire an artist who retains their national identity but mixes that with other sounds. In the case of Alluri; he is influenced by British music and a range of different acts. I mentioned Doves as one source of inspiration. Those ‘90s/’00s Indie acts are big in his mind. The way Doves could project epic soundscapes and sheer intimacy within the space of a single song is something that has compelled Alluri. So too are the older gods such as Pink Floyd whose experimentation and tripped-out corners have oozed their way into Alluri’s sonic palette.

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What I love about Alluri’s songwriting is the fact he does not shy away from recognising where came from. Vanessa Forero, whom I mentioned earlier, sings songs in Spanish and is keen to recognise where she came from and who she is. Alluri does not completely fill his music with Western sounds and try to fit into the pack too obediently. That would be quite a worry were that the case. So many musicians are moulded into something chart-ready and commercial – it means you get a mass of musicians who are following directives and making the most consumable music possible. The bold and brave artists are those that take risks and remain loyal to their instincts. It would be understandable was Alluri to produce a modern-day version of the bands/acts he grew up listening to. If you make music in the U.K., it can be challenging deciphering what the people want and whether certain sounds will be accepted. Fortunately, the people are responding to Alluri’s music with gusto and taking it to heart. It is some of the most fascinating and genre-less as you are likely to imagine. I mentioned how it was ‘Indian Indie’ but that would do it a disservice. It is much richer and more intriguing than that: a blend of Eastern wisdom and sounds together with a more familiar Western vibe. Every review I tackle I am looking at a musician’s influences and seeing whether they come into their own music forcefully. We all have those acts that really compel us but, if you are a musician, you have to be quite subtle when it comes to incorporating that into songs. Alluri has that distinctive British sound but ensures Evari Kosam (For Whose Sake) cannot be compared with any other song. It is a fascinating piece that has already received impassioned reviews and got to the ears of the biggest tastemakers in the U.K.

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Before I come to look at the song itself – and the back catalogue of Alluri – I want to talk about love as an influence and the ways in which it is represented. I have heard so many songs that investigate break-ups and heartache but do so in such an insipid way. When I hear Alluri’s music and look at his past; you get a sense of a young man who has felt the sting of betrayal but eager to document that without falling into clichés. Many artists simply follow tropes and fill the songs with lazy lines and some rather uninspired sentiments. That can put off many people and is something we want to see less of. Sure, love is an important concern but it is the most common one in music. If everyone is writing about it that means it becomes harder and harder providing original aperture and revelation. Alluri has looked at love in his repertoire but never sounds like he is following others or reading from a manual. You get words from the heart together with some very deep language and well-crafted lines. Hats go off to him, but in a larger sense, it is his music and personality that really get to me. He has that Indian heritage but is based out of London. The young musician has soaked up all the capital has to offer but ensures the music keeps his home and heart strong and undiluted. He is a man who has a strong personality and resolve but has that tender and venerable side. All of this comes through in music but it is the compositional experimentation that elevates things above the regular and routine. Splicing together Eastern sounds (from southern India) together with British suggestions is a rather tasty and spicy treat. I would expect Alluri to keep recording and producing music for many years to come. His current single proves he is one of the most promising artists around. Those that create something genuinely new and original are to be commended – it becomes harder as time elapses. When you have that ‘genre-less’ sound already established, it means critics and listeners are going to be hooked and fascinated. I cannot wait to see where Alluri goes and just how far he can take his music.

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I will investigate Evari Kosam (For Whose Sake), but before then, I shall have a quick look at Alluri’s back catalogue and how it compares. It’s With You is taken from the Who Are We? E.P. and looks at a beast being woken. Whether looking at love or a new bond, all the dreams (of a heroine I assume) have entered the hero’s world. There is that immediacy and drive throughout the song. This is evident in the composition which pairs hard-hitting, punchy percussion with twirling guitar notes and a distinct skip in the step. It is an implacable song that fights for submission and love. The girl is maybe unwilling to give herself fully to our man but he will not rest. That determination is underpinned by a composition that remains spirited and rich throughout. It is a fantastic song that gets into the head for a number of different reasons. The composition alone has enough energy and catchiness to captivate every listener whilst the lyrics talk of a man who is trying to make things happen and fighting against a sense of reluctant perhaps. This Life has a 1990s feel and a sense of fear running through. Alluri knows there is hate and uncertainty in the world and paints a very realistic picture. What you get from the song is hopefulness and a need to stand together. It has that Oasis-like anthemia swagger with a touch of The Beatles perhaps. Those snarly and electric guitar lines recall the 1990s legends whereas the abiding messages look back at the ’60s and a need to join together and stand tall.

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The entire Who Are We? E.P. has a defiance and fantastically rousing sound – this comes through clearly in This Life. It is not quite as instant and immediate as It’s With You but it (This Life) has a fantastic chorus which sticks in the mind for ages. It is a more slow-burning song that reveals new ideas and pleasure across time. Even though it is a three-track E.P., there is so much ground covered. A fantastic accomplishment that has that very British sound to it. Evari Kosam (For Whose Sake) retains the British sensibilities but changes its themes somewhat. There were some negatives and relegation on the E.P. but that need for betterment and improvement comes through. The latest track is more reflective and down but there is still room for light and life. The biggest change – from the E.P. to Evari Kosam (For Whose Sake) – is the sounds and lyrics. Alluri brings more Indian sounds to his current song and shows he is always adapting and keeping fresh. If he were to pen another Who Are We? song then that would be troubling. What we get is a natural development but retention of that established sound. The fantastic guitars and percussion notes are there together with the assured and defined vocal. Bringing in a different language can be risky – and maybe seem strange to new listeners – but you get such an accessibility from Evari Kosam (For Whose Sake) few will walk past. It is a song that gets into the mind and compels you to listen time again.

Evari Kosam (For Whose Sake) spares no times with handshakes and awkward introductions. From the opening notes, you are straight into the song. The vocal comes in very quickly and is backed by a rather delicate piano sound. Unlike the E.P. – which was more bombastic and Rock-based – here there is more demure and calm. Our hero sees a girl is coming home but questions whether she has come back for him. “You smile like a machine” (translated) is a line that suggests her heart is not in things. Having left work and home – coming back somewhere she once called home perhaps – there is not the sort of warmth and happiness one would expect. Maybe rekindling a romance or seeing a former sweetheart is too painful. Dredging up those memories has caused a rather awkward situation to become palatable. The silences and smiles seem like the natural reaction given the situation. Maybe there was love but things became too hard to continue. The hero is examining every side and wondering why the girl is here. Before you settle into the comfort of piano and soft vocals, you get a blast of horns and an accelerated tempo. It is magisterial and regal; the drums roll and the brass reaches the sky. Juxtaposing a rather nervy and tense session of reflection; the composition acts like sunshine and support. It gives the song its much-needed sense of safety and provides positivity. Given the gravitas and seriousness of the words, one would need something to balance that out. Luckily, the music provides that and is a rather unexpected treat. Alluri is just a speck in the girl’s eye – maybe she does not even think about him. Conversely, our man cannot stop thinking about her. She infests his waking life and infuses his dreams without any consideration. It is the imbalance and tension that comes through sternly in the vocal. You can hear that emotion and fatigue; the need for answers and that desire to rekindle things. Maybe mistakes were made but there is a real desire to get back to better times.

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After the first verse, we get some wordless chanting (from the hero) and a continuation of the composition. Those horns seem warmer and more enriching. Like someone walking into the sun – seeking some nourishment and truth – it is a blissful, candid sound. You get immersed in the notes and swim in its mix of caramel-smooth romance and tender kiss. It is an austere sound too and one which prompts reflection and self-assessment. The hero is pacing the room and seems lost at the moment. With hissing percussion and relentlessly rousing brass, it is as though this is a vital punctuation. In the song’s video, the hero is putting on a bow-tie and there is a drink with two straws. It seems like an important date beginning or a chance to broker some sense of reconciliation. In scenes of binge-eating and sullen expression, the lyrics talk of the hero becoming a “mobile kitchen”. He is getting into a state and cannot overcome the memories of the girl. This excessive eating is down to the girl: he cannot forget what they have together and how things ending. Rather than move on, he is self-destructing to an extent and trying to find answers in food. This idea of the other half moving on is enforced. She might be eating out and enjoying the company of another man whilst this man stays home alone and has only himself for company. He wonders whether she thinks of him and whether there is any memory she holds dear. You can hear the tears being fought but there is a slight hopefulness in the voice. Maybe not prepared to give up the fight, Alluri is remembering all the good times that came before. You get a sense of Doves’ 2002 album The Last Broadcast in some aspects. The horns remind me of the Cheshire band. The way they climb and fly brings light and physicality to the song. It is one of the most addictive and standout parts of the song. The notes intertwine and swoon; they strike with the percussion and stand alone, proudly. Few artists have the confidence to step away from vocal and lyrics for so long and let the music campaign. Such is the ability of Alluri, you have a song that says what it needs to in a short matter of time and then lets the music expand that point. Here, Evari Kosam (For Whose Sake) is defined by its blunt and heart-aching thoughts and sumptuous composition.

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Alluri is a slave and someone who is held captive by these thoughts and pain. The girl is not thinking of him the way she should and that is causing stress. Spring will arrive, as it is said, when she looks at him and provides a human touch. The final seconds keep the composition going and offer chants and exclamation from the hero. It is fascinating seeing how Evari Kosam (For Whose Sake) develops and changes as it reaches the end. The song’s first half presents the lyrics and the pain Alluri feels. The second deals more with the music and expanding on those thoughts. The music is the extension of the lyrics and provides a new way of explaining the deep emotions and regrets the hero feels. Maybe the lyrics (and translation) may not instantly hit everyone but will become clearer and affective when you play the song more. Although some of the translations are not perfect; you get a real sense of what is being sung and the feelings portrayed. Alluri has gone through a painful split but wants answers. Whether he got them I am not sure but hope he did. Evari Kosam (For Whose Sake) is clearly painful from Alluri’s perspective but is fascinating from the listener’s viewpoint.

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I have talked about various different themes – and how they relate to Alluri – and will return to those in the conclusion. I want to look at Alluri and where he might head in 2017. Evari Kosam (For Whose Sake) is released on Killing Moon and was picked up by legendary Muse producer, Tommasso Colliva. Those names alone suggest the music is rather stealthy and exceptional. The likes of Colliva would not pick up a song that was anything less than inspiring and awesome. Luckily, Alluri has crafted something wondrous and thought-provoking. Talking about the song, Alluri assessed it in these terms:

I wanted to make an awkward mood-piece of a lonely young man reeling from a break-up; and the sleeplessness, binge-eating and self-doubt that come with it. The protagonist sits in his own mindspace, littered with the little things he is holding on to – remnants of an ended but far-from-forgotten relationship.”

That synopsis might sound off-putting and odd but it is one of the most honest and real representations of love you can imagine. Many songwriters, when looking at break-up couch it in oblique sentiments and ambiguity. You get quasi-poetic expressions and stereotypical couplets. Essentially, real emotions and feelings are buried in digestible soundbites and made-for-radio quotations. Alluri has no such desires (to follow the herd in such an obvious way) and creates a song that is real and naked. We can all relate to the self-destructive nature of the protagonist. It is such an evocative and tense piece but has enough light and accessibility so it does not scare listeners off. Alluri is, essentially, a diarist and documents his trials and tribulations on a regular basis. When coming to London, Alluri felt like an outsider and has to assimilate into a new nation. That can be hard for the best of us but for a musician, it can be even more difficult.

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Not only do you have to adjust in terms of language and culture but you have to sell your music to a foreign audience. Things are different here (compared with India) so it has been a tough right-of-passage. Luckily, Alluri has had the opportunity to go back home and been touring around India. The raw expression and polished sound of his latest single is the bond of a fantastic Indian songwriter and a well-heeled, expert producer. I hope Alluri spends a lot more time in the U.K. as there is a lot for him to learn. In that, I mean there’s a wealth of venues to tour and stations to crack. I could see his music appearing on a station like ‘6 Music who always take risks and are one of the most wide-ranging and multi-cultural stations in the world. Evari Kosam (For Whose Sake) is a gorgeous and memorable song that deals with some tough times. The fact Alluri sings in his native tongue means it is much more personal and distinct than you’d imagine. That is a good thing and means there is going to be that demand out there. Where he goes from here will be interesting. Following his Who Are We? E.P., I guess it may be a little while before a new one is released. Maybe he will be thinking of an album but I do not want to put ideas into his head. Whatever is planned it will be great seeing a singular young artist take flight and make his next move. So far, he has settled in London but has that huge support back home. I am always searching for artists that have that special something about them: with Alluri, you get that in spades! He is going to keep on recording music and surely looking for gigs around the country. I have mentioned Vanessa Forero a lot: someone who has a similar discipline and approach to music and been getting gigs around the U.K. I hope Alluri looks beyond London and gets his music out there. I know there will be cities and towns who will welcome him in and provide a keen ear. That is going to be in the future, but for now, Evari Kosam (For Whose Sake) is where he is and what he is about.

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I’ll end by revisiting my themes of national/international mixtures and influences; take a quick peek back at new and interesting ways of portraying love. Alluri has a population of nearly seven-million (a metropolitan population even larger) and is the sixth most-populous urban agglomeration in India. It where Alluri comes from and inspires his music and voice. Having kept that identity and heritage in his current song – choosing to sing Telugu and proud – it means you get a real and vibrant sound of India coming out. I have always yearned to make my blog more international and take in more foreign artists. A lot of the time, I get to here British artists, and whilst that is great, I am denying myself a large part of the world. I do not get to hear too many Indian-based musicians so it has been a treat getting to hear Alluri. His upbringing and tongue can be heard all over his current single. It has got me interested in India as a nation and what other artists are playing there. As I stated earlier, this is only the second time I have reviewed an Indian act. Maybe there are not that many indigenous artists or those that have that Western, British sound. Sure, there will be a lot of Indian acts in a very traditional sense. How well they could ever translate beyond the country’s borders is a gamble. It is heartening discovering a young man who does not abandon his roots to fit into the British music scene. He grew up, like a lot of people in India, with those British acts and classic legends. From ‘00s Indie to ‘70s Prog.-Rock; the young man was treated to a real spread of sounds and veritable banquet of possibilities. I guess that is one negative of Britain. We do not really have a ‘native’ or traditional sound like India. In terms of instrumentations and genres, there is nothing distinctly British. With India, you have that different languages and dialects but a national sound that is very much their own – the U.K. has to make do with mongrel sounds and universal genres. Alluri brings the spice, sentiments and sensations of India into a less romantic (but more commercial) British template.

Let’s round this up by taking a look at influences and giving relationship breakup a new perspective. Alluri has mentioned Doves as an influence which is something you do not often see. Perhaps not a big takeaway from Evari Kosam (For Whose Sake), you do get embers of the sadly-rested northern band in the song. The way instruments represent emotions; the sweeping score and direct, earnest vocals can be applied to both Alluri and Doves. Aside from that band, it is clear the London-based musician had a childhood filled with some truly exceptional music. I hear too many new musicians take inspiration from the same acts. It means, when they head into music, you have a mass of artists all saying the same thing and sounding very similar. It also means you have less distinction and, if you are one of those acts, are going to have a very difficult life – perhaps not survive as long as a truly original act. Alluri realises this and is not going to make the mistakes many others have. You get Indian influences but not so many it pushes listeners away or is too divisive. Likewise, when employing British influence, there are not too many obvious examples. Together, you get a song/artist that has the capacity to remain for a long time and bring his very special sound to the masses. I cannot wait to see if Alluri tours widely this year or has any more music left in his locker. Already catching the eye of some big magazines/websites; that will be very pleasing to someone keen to play music for as long as possible. The reason he is remaining in the critical consciousness is because of the unique way common issues are addressed. Not only do you have that flavoursome, multi-cultural sound but words that give a new angle to a commonplace concern. We have all been, in some form, victim to love and the cruel heart is possesses. Whether that is unrequited yearning or a full-on break-up – we have all been through the mill at least once. Alluri takes the muse and does not apply the same shades as everyone else. You get a very personal and uncommon experience in his music. It is as though the music has been ripped from a diary – such is the language and vivid expressions. There is something very human and unambiguous about the music. Many artists cram their heartbroken mandates with clichés and really boring lines. It might sound cruel but if you are going to tackle something as every day and over-familiar as heartbreak then make sure you provide a new slant on the issue. With Alluri, you have a man who brings such vibrancy, fascination and personality into his music. Many have tried to be as daring and unique as Alluri (but failed). He is very much…

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THE real deal.

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Follow Alluri

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Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/allurimusic

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/allurimusic

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/allurimusic/

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBg10OrI7hcGuyOSotZrNWg

SoundCloud

https://soundcloud.com/alluri-2

FEATURE: Pop Goes the Theory: The Rise and Rule of the Female Solo Artist (Part One)

FEATURE:

 

 Pop Goes the Theory:

 

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The Rise and Rule of the Female Solo Artist (Part One)

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THIS will be, like so many others, a feature I intend to extend across…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Josh Shinner

a few editions. Last year, I was amazed by some rather wonderful female solo artists. Billie Marten, who I will bring back into this feature, was my standout: creating the majestic Writing of Blues and Yellows and still scurrying around my brain without any desire to relinquish its tenancy. I shall leave her until last because I wanted to select a few other artists worth watching – from mainstream-approved stars to some upcoming sensations. Jones (or ‘JONES’) is the moniker of Cherie Jones-Mattis and is housed on the 37 Adventures Records label. The Alternative-Pop singer-songwriter arrived in music in 2015: her extend play, Indulge, was named after her debut single and showed her to be one of the most promising young artists around. New Skin is her debut album and has drawn comparisons with the likes of Lykke Li and Yukimi Nagano. She teamed up with Shy Luv on the new single, Shock Horror! You can watch the video with Karma Kid and see just what all the fuss is about.

The London-based musician has a big future ahead and is an artist I’m tipping for great things. I have read interviews she’s conducted and (Jones) comes across as honest, earnest and open.

Last year, she amassed huge followers on social media and wracked up an impressive amount of Spotify plays. 2017 looks set to be even more exciting as she has the task of following up New Skin. I cannot wait to see where she goes and just how far she will progress.

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Izzy Bizu is an artist that I have been following a while and another unique and fantastic talent. She was labelled BBC Introducing’s standout of 2016 and rightfully so.

A Moment of Madness is her debut album (released last year) and boasts a cavalcade of bright and hopeful songs. We all heard White Tiger do the rounds on radio and T.V. Bizu was shortlisted in BBC’s ‘Sound of…’ 2016 poll and saw her introductory L.P. score impassioned reviews and common praise.

Sometimes sharp-tongued; the young Londoner is a peppy and chatty woman who can never be accused of being ordinary and unspectacular. She is not your average Pop/Soul star for sure. She is warm and welcoming but has that distinct Landaan accent. Relocating to south-west London after spending her childhood in Ethiopia, her mother’s homeland, and Bahrain – where her father was working at the time. By her teens, she was sneaking into clubs and fell into a typical teenager lifestyle. There is still evidence of that now – occasionally boozy trips abroad – but Bizu has the discipline and attitude to succeed and remain. If her debut album has too many hints of Amy Winehouse, her songwriting and backstory hardly compares with the great, late legend. In fact, there is something cosmopolitan, town-straddling and ethereal about Bizu. Her music looks at love, regrets and fuc**** up but is very much her own voice.

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Jorja Smith found herself included on BBC’s ‘Sound of…’ 2017 and was one of a host of female artists tipped for greatness. Maggie Rogers – someone I will include in a future edition – but does not possess the same magic and mystique as Smith. The Walsall-based teenager is just starting her career but all the signs look promising. After sampling Dizzee Rascal’s Sirens – for her standout track, Blue Lights – she got the thumbs-up from the Grime master. Her confidence, songwriting expertise and authority are already there – keep your eyes in her direction. I know Smith has a lot of attention on her shoulders and is being tipped for greatness. That acclaim might be the ruination of anyone trying to find their voice and create their first moments. Smith has been making music for years and has a great support network around her – her family are especially supportive of her career. I, for one, am eager to see where Jorja Smith heads this year. I suspect an album will arrive but she is busy performing and interviewing.

The hype is still there but she remains cool and settled. Of all the names that appeared on BBC’s shortlist of names to watch this year; there will be few that can match the sheer promise and vibrancy of Smith.

Her songwriting and voice have that extra edge and nuance. I feel she will remain for many years and continue to create album after album of exceptional work. Not to suggest BBC got their rankings wrong but always put a bet on the outsider. Jorja Smith is a smart, relatable and multi-talented artist whose fascinating career has only just begun.

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PHOTO CREDIT: ED HARDY X Illustrated People Shop

All the names above are relatively established or have made their way to the precipice of the mainstream. In future editions, I will look at artists like JAIN and Lula James but am keen to highlight some underground, unsigned musicians that are doing wonderful things. London-based Lola Coca is one of my favourite current act and someone who always brings the good. She is a colourful, bright and vivacious human who is always dressed in eye-catching clothes and has an infectious personality. She has street smarts and attitude but a vulnerability and keen wit; an intellect and passion for music that few others possess.

Bad Girlfriend was the song that put her on the map as it were. A track still talked about and played: a masterful, commanding song that looked at boys wanting only one thing for their birthday – you might not have to use your imagination to figure it out.

Blending Ska, Reggae and Pop together with R&B; you get sweet-leaf hang and island percussion alongside whip-smart beats and hazy electronics. It is the vocals that get to me and really stand out. Lola Coca is a fantastic songwriter whose lyrics are truly memorable and humorous. That vocal dominates and shows such cool, verve and attitude. Whether negotiating sleazy businessmen (GQ) or oral sex-fixated boyfriends (Bad Girlfriend); she is always-in-control and hypnotic. Latest single Ego is, perhaps, her most assured and layered song. It builds off her previous work and proves she means business. Her first headline show will happen on 20th February at Camden Assembly and you can still book a ticket. I know this year will be the finest from Lola Coca and one where she goes from underground hero to a stone-cold radio fixture – someone dominating the airwaves.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Anna Urik

MissDefiant are another London act who are unlike any other duo out there.

Jordan Cather and Emily Rose Adams take a bit of Lady Gaga and Madonna and fuse it with a world of variegation and energy. Their songs always convey important messages but never in a dour and overly-serious way.

I have followed their careers for a while and know they’re another act that will go far. They play Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen on the first of next month. I suggest you get down there and see the girls in the flesh. If you hanker for a duo that combines the best aspects of 1980s Pop with modern-day Electro.-Pop and Soul then you should not deny yourself the chance to hear the girls. 133t is an instantly memorable song with incredible production values whilst Calculator, their latest release, is as memorable, ear-lodging and fresh as songs come. There is never a sense the girls are following anyone else’s footsteps and trying to conform to expectations. They make their own music and follow their own intuitions. It is no surprise they have amassed a serious following and have some loyal fans following them. Competition out there is fierce and I know Cather and Adams will handle everything with aplomb and conviction. You fall for their music but get hooked by their varied and strong songwriting; the way they can shift themes and subjects without losing that singularity and focus. They are no throwaway Pop act – that talk of love and relationship woes endlessly – but a very serious duo capable of igniting the dancefloor. Their live performances are fantastic and they are indispensable in modern music.

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My penultimate artist is another London-based singer – I shall come to look at more international artists in the next part. At the initial stages of her career, she is fighting to be taken seriously and avoid the pitfalls of her peers. Newspapers are linking her with Harry Styles and whether they are dating: it takes focus from her music and reduces her to tabloid fodder. That is the gamble every young Pop star takes when they enter the scene. The press will always be on their back and I hope Dua Lipa overcomes the hurdles and can shake off the paparazzi. She has just teamed up with Martin Garrix on his latest track, Scared to Be Lonely. In fact, Dua Lipa can sit alongside any other artist and fit into their fold. Her voice and adaptability mean there will be many requests from other acts.

Right now, songs like Hotter than Hell and Blow Your Mind (Mwah) show she is a young lady with a serious amount of talent. Her songs are sexy, sweaty and suggestive but there is never a crude edge or anything approaching crass.

There is tease and suggestiveness together with a boot-load of passion and power. The young artist has very little time to rest and relax through this year. She is busy speaking with magazines, recording new material and preparing her forthcoming debut album in June. The eponymous record sees her co-write every track and brings together new tracks with some of her older material. Dua Lipa is off to the U.S. to tour there soon (having played there last year) and has already created a huge fanbase over there. Despite the fact she has not yet released her debut album – but has that demand from America – is quite frightening and impressive. If she can dodge relationship rumours and stay focused on the music she will be one of the most talked-about (for the right reasons) acts of this year.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Victor De Jesus

Because it is 2017 (and promised I would wait until this year to mention her again), I am including Billie Marten in this run-down. She created my favourite album of last year (Writing of Blues and Yellows) and remains a British treasure. The Ripon-based teenager had a frantic and busy year (in 2016) and is taking the time to record new material and plan her moves. She balances study with recording and has some tough questions ahead. I know Marten is working on new songs and taking some time out.

It will be hard following up an album like Writing of Blues and Yellows which remains an absolute work of wonder. I could not believe, when I reviewed the record, just how mature, accomplished and nuanced it was.

I am still listening to the album months after its release. Songs lodge in the mind and do not let go. I try to unravel the complexities of songs like Emily and Unaware but struggle to make sense. The entire record stems from a young woman who grew up listening to the right influences. As a Folk artist, she always ran the risk of being lumped in with the less inspired, more boring options available. It only takes a few seconds of her music to realise she is a very special artist. It is that voice that rules and swoons; it swims and seduces as it pleases. I look forward to following Marten’s career and throwing as much support behind it as possible. She is someone who will be a huge star in future years and, already, is a staggering songwriter with very few peers and equals.

It is clear there is some immense female talent out there and I cannot wait to see the best and brightest shine. I have just tipped the iceberg but will continue to pull together artists you need to watch. Those I have include today are all doing great work and will continue that throughout 2017. From BBC Introducing’s Izzy Bizu to Billie Marten; there is a wealth of female talent around. They often get overlooked in favour of their male peers and are not afforded the same opportunities. Surely that will change because, as you can see, there are so many fantastic artists around right now. Have a look around and discover the true extent…

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OF music’s brightest female talent.

FEATURE: The January Playlist: Vol. 5: A Time to Hold On

FEATURE:

 

The January Playlist

 

The January Playlist Vol. 5: A Time to Hold On

 

Vol. 5: A Time to Hold On

_______________

I seem to contextualise every new post with regards Donald Trump’s…

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presidency. It has been a rather ‘predictable’ start for the orange-skinned tyrant. Determined to ban every minority and foreigner from the country; ban abortion and deny climate change – there are few humans out there who are confident of positive change and harmony. Regardless, music is here and is, as always, the shoulder we can all cry on. This week, there are some fantastic new tracks and underground gems. January is almost over so a perfect time to cram some brilliant music into another bumper edition. Aside from some Dutch Uncles and Elbow; there are some new cuts from Nelly Furtado, Father John Misty and Rag ‘n’ Bone Man. If that wasn’t enough, I have been scouring the hottest fresh cuts from R&B, Hip-Hop and Indie – making sure there is no stone left unturned. Have a good look and listen and hopefully there will be something in there that sticks in the mind. If not, I shall make sure I try a lot harder in February’s first Playlist!

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Dutch UnclesOh Yeah

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Nelly FurtadoCold Hard Truth

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Ed SheeranCastle on the Hill

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PHOTO CREDIT: MATT SAV

Pond Sweep Me Off My Feet

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Pulled Apart by HorsesHotel Motivation

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Circa Waves Wake Up

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Shy Luv ft. JonesShock Horror

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Ty Segall Break a Guitar

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Austra I Love You More Than You Love Yourself

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Rag ‘n’ Bone Man Skin

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Yasutaka Nakata (ft. Charli XCX and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu) Crazy Crazy

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VitalicLevitation

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Father John MistyPure Comedy

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Joe GoddardMusic Is the Answer

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SkottGlitter & Gloss

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AnohniParadise

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PHOTO CREDIT: Mohave

Louise LemónEgyptian Darkness

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Clouds NothingEnter Entirely

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Rex Orange CountyBest Friend

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Hannah Lou ClarkDon’t Sweat It

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Young Fathers (ft. Leith Congregational Choir)Only God Knows

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SZADrew Barrymore

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DouniaEast Coast Hiding

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Izzy Bizu Talking to You

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Chase Atlantic Church

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Kehlani Do U Dirty

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Dan CrollAway from Today

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Sophie Ellis-BextorWild Forever

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Valerie JuneShakedown

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Au/RaKicks

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Rose Elinor DougallStellular

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GolpfrappAnymore

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Jessie ReyezShutter Island

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Horse ThiefAnother Youth

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Cascada Run

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Ásgeir Unbound

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Little MixTouch

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L.A. SalamiI Can’t Slow Her Down

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Nick GrantLuxury Vintage Touch

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ContessaRunning

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Dave (ft. J. Hus) – Samantha

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Martin Garrix (ft. Dua Lipa)Scared to be Lonely

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Elbow Gentle Storm

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Shotgun MouthwashHigh Contrast

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ZAYN and Taylor SwiftI Don’t Wanna Live Forever

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DecadeBrand New Again

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Lost Kings (ft. Tinashe) – Quit You

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Rejjie Snow Crooked Cops

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The Knocks (ft. Jerm)Lie

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LÉON Liar

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BahariGet Together

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Ward ThomasBoomerang

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Luke Sital-SinghKilling Me

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Machine Gun Kelly Dopeman

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Urban ConeOld School

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Imelda May (ft. Jeff Beck)Black Tears

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Bell Biv DeVoeI’m Betta

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Allison CrutchfieldI Don’t Ever Wanna Leave California

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Major Lazer (Ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR & Nicki Minaj) Run Up

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JapandroidsNo Known Drink or Drug

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Jamiroquai Automaton

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Migos Big on Big

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ClovesBetter Now

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R3hab (ft. Verite)Trouble

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Frank Carter & the RattlesnakesBluebelle

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Pissed JeansIgnorecam

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Stefflon Don (ft. Giggs)Real Ting Remix

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Tift MerrittStitch of the World

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PriestsNothing Feels Natural

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Matt Martians (ft. Syd & Steve Lacy)Dent Jusay’

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Johnny FlynnRaising the Dead

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Missy Elliott (ft. Lamb)I’m Better

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Rolling Blackouts Coastal FeverFrench Press

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I am seeing a lot of great albums arrive and some awesome new songs approach. It seems like there is no let-up in the sheer volume and quality of 2017’s music. This first month has been a bold and consistent one and follows on from 2016. That was a marvellous year: this one is shaping up to be even better and more astonishing. I cannot wait to hear what February has in mind – January has been a really full and flavoursome one. We have been witness to the succession of Donald Trump and his mad brand of politics. As I keep saying time again: this is the time to stick together and let music stand up for everyone. It is that unifying force that will never disappoint. That is evident and clear as this week’s selection of new songs proves – another sumptuous banquet of song.

 

TRACK REVIEW: Twin Prop Plane – Hand Across My Mouth

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Twin Prop Plane

 

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Hand Across My Mouth

 

 

9.4/10

 

  

Hand Across My Mouth is available at:

https://twinpropplane.bandcamp.com/

GENRES:

Indie; Folk; Alternative.

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

12th December 2016

James Taylor – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Songwriter
Alex Murphy – Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals, Percussion
Davina Panjanaden – Violin, Backing Vocals
Edwin Magombe – Keyboard
Ivan Polakovic – Drums
Kristoffer Rylander – Producer, Additional Percussion

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GROUPS will be focused on this year as…

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we confidently head into February. We have already heard great albums from The xx (not a fan myself but their new one has been well-received) and more looks set to follow. I have stated how solo artists will be put in the spotlight this year. That is the way the end-of-year polls went: highlighting the finest solo artists around the country. Most of these – well, a lot – are Urban artists and define a new demand in music. It seems like there is a clambering for artists that differ from the normal and provide something vital and urgent. I want to chat about influences again – a subject that is always relevant – and why we should be excited about music this year (more so than last). Before that, I am presented with a five-piece act that gets me thinking about dynamics and band sizes. It might seem like an odd lead-off but most bands tend to be four-piece. You get duos and trios – are they bands?! – but you do not hear many five-pieces.  Twin Prop Plane are inspired by Arcade Fire – a six-piece I shall invoke later – and have healthy numbers in the ranks. The reason I want to bring this up is to show the strength in numbers. I have extolled the virtues of duos and solo artists but have not spent a huge time on bands. It is said, as I have proffered several times, bands are becoming less essential and original. The past couple of years have not seen too many great, enduring groups pop up – compared with solo artists anyway. That seems troubling considering just how many new bands you hear coming through. Every week, it seems like there is a dozen-or-so new groups being hailed as future wonders. Why, therefore, do they not remain in the mind and make their way to the mainstream? Perhaps it is the bands already at that level not providing ample influence and guidance.

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I think of 2016, and when it comes to band-made albums, struggle to think of too many I can name. To my ear, the best music of last year was made by solo performers. This year, there seems to be a slight shift happening. I mentioned The xx but other bands, like Elbow, are preparing to release their latest album (Little Fictions). After that, there will be a run of interesting band-created albums for us to sink our teeth into. I know solo artists have been much represented in magazines and polls but keep your ears open and hear what bands are providing. I am excited about Dutch Uncles and what Big Balloon (their upcoming album) will sound like. More than anything, it is those eager bands of the underground that are pricking my ears. I will not name names – there is a long, long list – but some definite mainstream acts of the future. I am not talking about bands that sound like everyone else and have that predictable, plodding nature. The Amazons, long-listed by BBC as an artist to watch in 2017, define what I mean: good, honest music that is free from pretention and gets crowds jumping. Getting back to my original point and I am pleased to see a five-piece come my way. I guess there are a lot of bands that are quintets but you do not really seem them heavily promoted. With that extra member, if you feel a band should be a quartet, it provides extra weight, strength and drive. In the case of Twin Prop Plane, they are a bi-gender, mixed race band that I feel will go quite far. Again, we often overlook gender and race in bands – something that should be highlighted more. I am seeing mixed gender groups form but largely they are either all-male or all-female (much rarer). More often than not, there will be the balance of male-female with the boys taking the majority share – as is the case of Twin Prop Plane (and Arcade Fire for that matter). I love the traditional four-piece bands but find they are not that varied and too homogenised.

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I am an advocate of promoting women in music and seeing more of them in bands – not feeling off-put and feeling that is a male-dominated side of music. I have written pieces about the imbalance in music regarding gender and race so finding bands that are not all-white, all-male is a progressive and positive step. Whether it is only a small change it makes a huge amount of difference. In order for music to move forward and not have stigma and subjugation; there needs to be a look at the current scene and raising questions. I will go into more depth in the conclusion but am keen to get to my featured act. They are a band that have a lot planned for this year and are worth a lot of attention and praise. They go by the name of Twin Prop Plane:

The five-piece draw on an eclectic mix of influences include indie bands such as Belle and Sebastian, Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire and The Mountain Goats as well as from jazz and classical music. Founded by singer/songwriter James Taylor, their sound often contrasts light moods with subtle lyrical meaning.

The single launch party took place at The George Tavern in Shadwell on Sunday 11th December and the band have played at venues across the capital such as The Barfly, The Enterprise and The Old Queen’s Head since they formed in 2016.

The band are playing at The Workshop, Hoxton on Thursday 2nd February 2017 and are taking bookings for the new year”.

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It might seem foolhardy talking about a band’s influences in the context of original material. Every group has influences but always want to be seen as distinct. That is the case with Twin Prop Plane but the band sources Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire as idols. Those are two North American acts that interest me greatly. Not only are they separate from Indie/Rock groups – artists influenced by the same old bands; a rather unsophisticated sound – these twin bands are defined by their inventiveness, intelligence and soundscapes. Arcade Fire are making a charge this year and already released an anti-Trump song – the marvellous I Give You Power. Following from their previous record, Reflektor, the Canadian band are readying themselves for new music. What has always defined their sound is a sense of humanity and familiarity. You bond with songs and become involved with them. Whether you prefer albums like Neon Bible and The Suburbs; plump for Reflektor or Funeral – so many beautiful, hugely evocative moments to cherish. It is hard to define just what makes their music stand out: maybe the detailed, story-like lyrics or the colourful compositions. The same can be said for Vampire Weekend. The U.S. band are always pushing the envelope and subverting expectations. They sit outside the arena of their peers and produce some of the most accomplished and fascinating music around. In the same way music you hear in your childhood influences later tastes: the bands/acts musicians fall for defines their direction. I like a good Rock band who can bring the noise and invigorate the senses. What I have found, over the past years, are too many bands taking artists like Led Zeppelin and Arctic Monkeys, for instance, and replicating their sound – without offering anything new and original. If you are compelled by a band then you should not just copy what they are doing. Twin Prop Plane have the same attributes. They are more than capable of providing energetic, spirited music but do so much more. There are stories and true-to-life revelations; stunning melodies and nuanced treasures. I am basing this off of a single but I can hear those embers of Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire; more than that, a band that has their own voice and are among the most interesting and distinct in the U.K.

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This year, as I have said, is an exciting one for sure. Not only is the music itself proving to be more intriguing and diverse but there is a human need for musical positivity. 2016 was a rather brutal and relentless one for many reasons. Political shifts and division seemed to define the year; there was a definite negativity passing over the planet. Aside from that, we experienced musical legends passing and were subjected to so many horrors around the globe. I have proffered how music has a duty to fill the void and cheer souls. It is a platform that does not judge or have its own agenda. If last year was a fantastic and vital one for music then this year seems likely to top that. I have stated how there will be some great albums (made by bands) emerging but some wonderful young solo artists are showcasing their talent. Aside from RAY BLK and Jorja Smith there is Loyle Carner and Anderson.Paak. Not only is there going to be more racial diversity (promoting the new artists) but, I hope, women will play a larger role. Setting aside gender and race, it seems like quality alone will be at an absolute peak. We all need a happier and more uplifting year: finding music that calms and invigorates – in addition to inspiring and motivating. Where do Twin Prop Plane fit into this dichotomy? Well, the London band has that established and confident sound that could resonate from a mainstream act. They sound confident and solid in this early stage. I know 2017 is going to be hectic for them but in a good way. I am thrilled by the new artists arriving and cannot wait to see how this year pans out. In previous years, there have been too many samey bands and Pop-driven acts that are quite sugary and generic. Last year saw less of that and a move towards real, genuine music. That will continue throughout 2017 and provide the public with some tremendous sounds.

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The competition is fierce in the band market: that is especially true of London. The capital is growing and becoming much more prominent as a music centre. Of course, London has always been prominent and important but that is increasing. If you consider bands, there is such a choice it is quite dizzying. I know, whenever I review a London band, I tip them to go far but that is true for Twin Prop Plane. They will be patient and continue to work hard. I know there will be hurdles to overcome but the five-piece will negotiate them ably. What interests me about Twin Prop Plane is how different they sound to everyone else. Music will be exciting this year and I expect Twin Prop Plane to make headway. I am not sure what their plans are with regards albums and E.P.s but one hopes something will arrive later in the year. Hand Across My Mouth is a brilliant and assured first single that will get a lot of people excited. The band have launched the single and gained some positive feedback. It is daunting, in this early stage, deciding where to go and how things will unfold. I will be backing the band and sure they’ll take their music up and down the U.K. We need to promote our great national bands and ensure they get as many opportunities as they can. We are at a point where London’s music venues are safe. There have been no more closures and it seems like new artists can breathe a sigh of relief. There are those places to perform and music lovers are rejoicing. Twin Prop Plan are in the perfect city for opportunities and will take full advantage. Against the bad memories of 2016, there is a tide of hope and strength in 2017. Our young and eager musicians are here to help and bring smiles to faces.

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As usual, at this point in any of my reviews, I look back at the artist’s back catalogue and see where their new song fits into that. Given this is the debut cut from Twin Prop Plane, I shall plough straight ahead and review the song in question. Not only does the band’s name itself provoke questions and images – there must be a story behind the name one would have thought? – but their debut single has quite an intriguing title. You imagine a sense of suppression and violence; a struggle and silencing perhaps. Hand Across My Mouth does not begin with violent exclamation or any sudden rush. Instead, there is a pastoral sense of calm and reflection. The violin is the most prominent instrument in the opening moments and sets the tone of the song. It provides something quite tender and comforting but imbued with a sense of trepidation and fear. When one hears the skipping acoustic guitar line there is a certain familiarity to that. It is the violin accompaniment that turns a potentially well-worn and overly-familiar introduction into something new and striking. There is not much time spent on the introduction which allows the lyrics to start affecting. When one hears the lead sing about a “microgram or carcinogens” you think of illness and disease. Whether that is a physical ailment or a general feeling of unease it is hard to say. Whilst he will flush the body and come out of the shower cleansed and pure, you start to speculate what the song’s origins are. Given the title (Hand Across My Mouth) I feel there is an emotional/political element to the song. It is hard to think of any song in an age of Trump that is not motivated by him.

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When hearing and watching him on T.V. there is that feeling of unease and sickness – like we need to take a long shower. One imagines the band were casting around elsewhere for inspiration but it is would be interesting discovering whether there was a political motivation. Our hero wants the Devil to get away and cast from his soul. I have mentioned bands like Vampire Weekend (when comparing Twin Prop Plane) but there is a definite Folk feeling early on. Maybe not quite as soft and grave as a Nick Drake track: you get a feeling of the man when hearing the strings combination and types of messages proffered. The hero is walking through supermarket aisles aimlessly and robotically collecting his shopping. He is “Bored to tears” every hour of the day and akin to a ship’s captain navigating a ship through the waters. Right away, you get a feeling of a man who needs to change things up and find excitement. When you hear love songs and the usual fare, there is always a real limitation with regards inspiration and motivation. You hear an artist’s personal view and broken heart, and whilst that is important in modern music, how many of us are compelled to do something and change out ways? With Hand Across My Hand, one reflects on their own life and just how exciting it is. I myself have that same feeling of fatigue and stuck-in-a-rut-boredom. Walking the supermarkets zombie-like is a common feeling; needing things to improve is a regular dream of mine. If the band strike a chord and resonate in one verse, they create something quite unexpected and distant in the next. “Raise up your hand and strike a blow for the hegemony” begins the next verse but talks of “letters dictated authoritatively”.

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The “Gujarati niece” (from Milton Keynes) has been trying to remain free and survive the winter. It is hard to listen to the verse without casting images in your mind and wondering what is being referred to. Maybe that niece has rebelled against a trodden life and gone out exploring. Maybe she has remained at home but is enjoying a different way of life. It seems the niece figure is holding on to a sense of freedom and a better life. There is a sense of the intercontinental and Asiatic; relatives and friends across the waters. “From Luton to Kolkata/From Leicester to Chennai” – everything our hero holds dear will go away to die. It is a striking sentiment but one supported by luscious, graceful strings. James Taylor and Davina Panjanaden (with Alex Murphy) combine vocals in this verse and blend together wonderfully. Panjanaden’s violin continues to provide virtue and romance – with a degree of sadness and strain. Vishnu will preserve our man whilst Shiva will destroy. One suspects Panjanaden’s Asian background might have influenced the lyrics and the projection of Shiva and Vishnu. There are few songs that bring the two together if you think about it. That sense of unpredictability is what makes Hand Across My Mouth a very intriguing song. When singing about “you boy” (our man won his knees, fingers in the dirt), one speculates who is being talked about. Many of the song’s lyrics are quite oblique so it can be challenging really digging to the core. That is part of the beauty really: you would not want things to be too clear-cut and spoil any sense of mystery. Whereas the opening verse was a calm and acoustic-led; things become more rousing and spirited past the halfway mark. If Taylor is inspired by the North American likes of Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire; it is Noah and the Whale who come through in his vocal delivery and sound. You get suggestions of Charlie Fink and his distinct sound.

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Continuing on its plight, the song looks at a “future practitioner of dentistry”: a son “still living in sin” and secrecy. He is a chapped-lipped, cravated teenager (they are becoming so common these days!) and you are transported back to a past time. The descriptions and characters do not seem to fit into the modern world, such is their quirkiness and old-world charm. From the opening verse and its obvious sentiments, you step more into the literary world. One wonders whether the future practitioner and teenager are one of the same or two distinct characters. Elsewhere, two blue-lit torsos are listening to the radio’s faint embers and the smell of (burnt) cumin seeds. The scenes are so evocative and beautifully described you might need a few listens to really concentrate – distracted as you are by the sheer poetry and beauty of the lyrics. It is at this point I become less interested in pure meaning and truth and start to enjoy the words in a different way. Few bands have the descriptive powers and original bent as Twin Prop Plane. They are not an arty band who stuff clever-clever lyrics in to compensate for a lack of music and vocal prowess. Throughout Hand Across My Mouth, you get the sense of a band who can fit into the mainstream but give direction to insipid and stereotyped bands who need guidance – just how you should write a song. Whether the London band’s future songs will focus on love, or follow the same path of Hand Across My Mouth, I know they will continue to create fascinating songs. In this one, we are watching a raised cup brought to the lips. Every “net curtain twitches” and “every letter box creaks” as the rain soaks through the jeans of the hero. It seems to come back to the opening verse and that sense of weariness. Our hero goes into the future at an incredible speed and walks through the rain-painted streets. The band delivers the final verses with chorusing, hand-claps and dancing strings. It is a stop-start composition that goes from energetic to sedate. You never quite know what to expect but are caught in the sheer vibrancy and colour of the song. There are Celtic strings and Folk touches; U.S. influence and the sound of the city streets. By the end, you have to drink it all in and come to your own conclusions. It might take a few more spins to grasp everything and really understand every line and storyline. Hand Across My Mouth is a song that introduces a band unlike no other but not too distinct that means you struggle to relate. It is a confident, full and intelligent song with an impressively tight and together performance and plenty of repeatability.

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Hand Across My Mouth is the start of things for Twin Prop Plane. They have the song out there and it is pleasing to hear them come out strong. After launching the single at The George Tavern (on 11th December) they are preparing to play The Workshop, Hoxton on 2nd February. In the ultra-cool recess of the capital, it is a chance to bring the music to new followers and potential D.J.s. Hoxton Radio is based nearby and, perhaps, an opportunity for the quintet to impress. That is what they are doing at the moment and it is tempting to see where they can head. I am very proud of British music and the sheer vitality and wealth of talent out there. London is, as many would expect, leading the way and providing some sensational new artists. I am confident bands will come more to the fore (I shall expand on that shortly) and feel Twin Prop Plane will enjoy some success. I try not to leap ahead and speculate where a band will go after a single song. I would like to think the London quintet will release more songs – whether that is an album or E.P. I am not sure. It sounds like there is excitement and confidence in the band so it seems likely we’ll get more material sooner rather than later. In terms of their touring schedule, they do not have to struggle as much as others. Those based out of cities – in smaller towns for example – often find a limited local scene to ply their trade. They are one of the most interesting bands playing out of the capital so I would urge them to keep plugging and making new music. They will balance those commitments with the demands of the road. There is the need to get Hand Across My Mouth out there and exposed. The song goes deep and ensures it remains long in the memory. It is rare discovering music that does that: hits you pretty hard but is deep and detailed enough you’re curiously picking it apart for weeks to come.

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That is a commodity the band should not ignore and keep going strong. I speculated as to whether they would release an E.P. or album. Whatever they have planned, I know it will follow the same sort of path as Hand Across My Mouth. I opened by talking about bands and mixing configurations up a bit. We see, all too often, the all-male dynamic appear. It can get quite predictable and is something that needs to be overhauled. I am not suggesting all bands need to recruit female members but it is richness and diversity that Twin Prop Plane possesses that is their strength. That range is not just confined to gender either. I have reviewed a lot of all-male, all-white bands and get a bit fatigued after a while. The way music will evolve is for certain archetypes and stereotypes to be shattered and rebuilt. I have written pieces about how there is an imbalance in music in terms of race and gender. Female artists have to work harder to get the same chances as their male peers. When it comes to black and Asian acts; they are often overlooked by and large – or at least are not afforded the same publicity as a white artist for instance. We are starting to see some changes and positivity come through but it is a small step – one that has taken a long time to occur. Twin Prop Plane have that natural friendship in the ranks and do not have to prove anything. Just by seeing their members – the balance of gender and race – I am already more compelled and interested than I otherwise would have been. That is not to say I have an agenda or ‘club rules’ but is good to see a band that is not the same as everyone else. This extends past appearances and goes right into the music.

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I know the guys have their influences – I have mentioned Arcade Fire enough – but, in true terms, they are very much their own band. Yes, you can hear shades of others but there are things one hears in Hand Across My Mouth that makes the London band an original and impressive force. Those lyrics are unusual and intelligent. They are not ridden with clichés and easy rhymes; they have a real character and story to them. The artists that will shine and stand out this year are those that do not blindly replicate what is already out there. We all see those kinds of bands/artists that are happy being like the rest and expending very little energy. That is okay if you want quick, short-lasting chart success but it does not cut much mustard with those who know what they are talking about. Fortunately, Twin Prop Plane will never suffer any easy comparisons and brief success. The guys seem determined to stick around and that is a good thing. Once they have completed their gigs in the coming weeks they will be looking further ahead and what they can achieve. I would like to see them cast their mind further across the U.K. and try to score gigs as far as possible. There are some great venues and towns that would welcome them. I have seen lesser acts tour the U.K. and even find appreciation internationally. For the London group, they have a skill set and kinship that is cannot be faked or broken. Here is to them and whatever comes next. If Hand Across My Mouth is anything to go by it seems likely the band will enjoy a lot of success throughout 2017. Coming in with a debut single can be nerve-wracking and unsure. There are so many other artists out there getting heard and promoted can be really tough. No such fears for the intrepid quintet who have crafted an exceptional introduction. Their mission is set and clear: they have a plan in action and…

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WILL not fail.

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INTERVIEW: Bianca Rose

INTERVIEW:

 

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Bianca Rose

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THE British/Jamaican/Nigerian singer-songwriter Bianca Rose has been writing and…

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composing for a decade now. In 2007, her self-released but E.P. (Truth and Tiny Tragedies) arrived and marked her out as a singular songwriting talent. Following that, she continued to write her own material whilst collaborating with others. Bianca Rose has – whilst accompanying herself on guitar and ukulele – performed sets for Sofar Sounds, Tigmus and the CrimeJazz Festival in The Netherlands (among others). This year finds the London-based artist step out alone and release some new material – stuff she has been working on for a long time now. Because of Love sees Bianca Rose collaborating with award-nominated cellist/songwriter Ayanna Witter-Johnson. The combination is stunning and is the second single to be taken from Bianca Rose’s forthcoming debut album. With so much going on, I leapt at the chance to speak with the songwriter about her new material but also her upbringing and musical tastes. She talks about her new single and her hopes for 2017.

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

Hey! I’m doing really well, thank you. My week is going fine: have a load of plates spinning in the run-up to the release of the album – but it’s fun; I’m enjoying the process.

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

Well. I’m a London-based singer-songwriter. I’ve been making music for quite a few years now; writing for myself and others and about to release my debut album, No Fear Here.

Because of Love is your latest single and featured the talent of Ayanna Witter-Johnson. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the song and how you came to work with Ayanna?

This song is essentially about love and what one might do; or how far one might go when compelled by a perfect love.

Working with Ayanna was a joy. We’ve been friends for some years now and happened to be a part of an artist retreat a few years ago. We wrote this song whilst there, and as I was creating this album, I thought it would fit nicely in its themes and overall soundscape.

It is the second single to be drawn from your forthcoming album, No Fear Here (due on 30th January). Can you reveal the themes/type of songs we can expect from the L.P.?

The songs on this album have a very bright and optimistic outlook despite being born out of a difficult time. I went through a period of time where I couldn’t create. It was very painful, and when I drilled down to find the whys, I met fear and doubt at the base of the tree. Confronting these forces and learning how to not be controlled by them helped me move out and through this dark time – and thankfully into a place where I could create again. 80% of this album is the first songs I wrote when could write again: therefore the songs house the thoughts and emotions I was living with at that time.

Was it a difficult album to create, emotionally, or was it quite an easy and smooth process?

It was very easy actually. Writing (I think) comes easier to me than singing, so after having my ability to write return to me after that challenging time, the songs just poured out.

You have said, when explaining the album’s inclusion of fear in various forms, you try to destroy all traces of fear from your daily life. Has that become harder given the way the political world is transforming and how important is music in fighting fear and prejudice?

That’s an interesting question.

The political climate doesn’t (or hasn’t) affected my ability to use the tools I’ve learnt to root out and keep fear at bay on a personal level. It’s never been the wider or bigger issues that have ever induced fear in me; rather local or more internal neuroses.

I do think it has been, and continues to be, the responsibility of the artist to make sense of the things that are happening both internally and externally to us all – and to attempt to comment on it. Be it art about love, politics; the environment or everyday observation. We can express things in a song that may be impossible to say in a conversation. That is such a gift. I’m so excited to grow in this area as I continue to create more music.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Cat Lane

After the album is released do you have plans for tours or any goals for the rest of 2017?

YES! I love sharing music live. A tour is being scheduled for later this year but I will be gigging as much as I can until then.

Your debut E.P., Truth and Tiny Tragedies, was released ten years ago. What have you learnt from the past decade and how would you say you’ve evolved as an artist?

Mostly I think I’ve learnt how to live and allow life to inform art. I’ve learnt about timing – and there is a time to write and time not to. There is a time to champion the artists around you and help them establish their place and a time to step forward. I say all of that (to say that) whilst still being ambitious. I’ve become more accepting of the journey of being an artist.

In the ensuing period (between your debut E.P. and debut album) you have performed a range of gigs, from Sofar Sounds to CrimeJazz Festival (in Holland). Which gigs have been particular memorable and how important is touring to you?

You know, I just love gigging. Every moment I get in front of a crowd and share my stories and songs is such a joy – so I don’t really have a stand-out show.

Being locked in a moment with the audience is an incredibly thrilling experience for me and I do it every chance I can get.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Cat Lane

You are a lyricist in the Ready Riters songwriting collective – and co-wrote X-Factor contestant Annastasia Baker’s debut album (resulting in Annastasia’s 2014 Mobo nomination). Is it hard writing for others and how do you adjust, in terms of discipline, getting inside someone else’s head and writing from their point-of-view?

Writing for others exercises a different muscle. When I’m writing for me, I allow the thoughts and melodies to flow. To an extent, there are moments when writing for others that I must allow that flow to happen. As I’m usually in the room with at least two people (often more) who are also contributing to the process, I’ve had to learn to collaborate well – which was difficult in the beginning. If I lead with empathy and understanding it’s relatively easy to understand someone else’s heart and motivation.

Take me back to your upbringing. I know you have British, Jamaican and Nigerian heritage. How do your African roots, for instance, enforce your songwriting and outlook on life?

I think my heritage is less something that enforces my songwriting but is more a foundation that underpins it all.

Like a foundation, I’m not conscious of its presence in my songwriting,  but I know it’s there  – a vague answer but that’s how I feel about it.

What were the kind of albums you grew up listening to? Which artists filled your young ears?

I came from a Christian home so I grew up listening to a lot of Gospel music (which I love). I loved R’n’B and Garage in my teens but discovering music from singer-songwriter like John Mayer, Lisa Hannigan; Lizz Wright and Foy Vance flipped the script for me.  Discovering Jazz music for myself (not what was taught at school or second-hand) was also pivotal.

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If you had to select three albums that have, as a child or adult, meant the most to you, what would they be and why?

John MayerRoom for Squares. It was so important in my development. I discovered this album and it changed how I approached songwriting. It was the first time I had heard someone capture everyday moments in a song. I was used to the stereotypical relationship melodrama found in the R’n’B music and this was a marked departure.

Dinah Washington – I had a best-of album of hers which I played and played constantly for a long period of time. Just the way she expressed the words she sang just pulls you in close.

Arctic MonkeysWhatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. It was an album I didn’t expect to love. I couldn’t listen to anything else for about a month. The songs talk about their lives, their small town; their mentality in such a convicting way that I could put myself in their lives. The last song on the album – A Certain Romance – always makes me emotional. Listening to this album the first time, I knew I wanted to write music that made people feel like I felt.

A lot of websites have published their list of musicians to watch this year. Which acts would you suggest we keep a close eye on?

Jake Issac.

Ayanna Witter-Johnson – she recording an album right now that I cannot wait to have in my collection

Is there any advice you’d offer new songwriters coming through at the moment?

Read books. Read poetry. Crucial.

Listen to music that is nothing like what you make. Then, put all of that down and write, write, write. Disengage from social media often (I’m sill learning to do this).

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select any song you want (not one of yours as I’ll do that) and I’ll include it here.

Clair de Lune from Rick Wakeman’s stunning new album, Piano Portraits

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Follow Bianca Rose

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PHOTO CREDIT: Lesley Lau Photography

Official:

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INTERVIEW: Ailbhe Reddy

INTERVIEW:

 

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Ailbhe Reddy

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ANOTHER one of my musical ambitions, aside from seeking artists…

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outside of the U.K. has been to discover a true Irish gem: specifically someone from the great city of Dublin. I am familiar with the music there but have few requests from bands/acts. When I heard Ailbhe Reddy’s current single, Relent, I was compelled to get in touch. She has been compared, without any exaggeration, to the likes of Hannah Reid (London Grammar) and Daughter. Reddy plays Servant Jazz Quarters on 15th February: a chance for British audiences to see one E.I.R.E.’s most promising singer-songwriters amaze and seduce. I will (hopefully) get to that gig. Regardless, Reddy has a busy and exciting year ahead. She talks about her upcoming plans; her favourite memory from 2016 and the musicians that inspired her growing up.

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

I’m well, I’m good! I’ve had a great week. I spent my weekend between the studio recording new material and filming a music video for Relent.

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

I’m a singer-songwriter from Dublin, Ireland. My music has been described as a variety of different genres: mainly Folk, Alternative/Indie-Pop.

Relent is your latest single. Can you tell us a bit about it and what compelled the song?

The song was inspired from the natural retrospection that results from a break-up. I had gone through a break up a few months before and not really processed it until much later.

When I finally looked back on it I felt an immense sense of guilt and loss – because I hadn’t even tried to maintain something important to me. I think songs can often only come from the perspective of the person writing – who sees themselves as blameless. I really wanted to put something forward that was more honest. I’m trying to portray the guilt of my own failings within the song.

The vocals on the track are especially arresting and beautiful. You have been compared with some real musical heavyweights. Do you have to work on your voice a lot of has it come rather naturally?

Thanks so much. I’m delighted with the comparisons to Daughter and London Grammar.  My voice has matured and improved a lot over the last two/three years of gigging and recording so I’m hoping to continue that. I work on it a lot, especially improving my range, so that I can sing a song like Relent – which is quite powerful and challenging to sing.

You are based in Dublin (not many of us think of the city regarding music). What is the scene like in the city?

I would have thought that Dublin was thought of as a hub for music. There’s a really vibrant music scene here and a brilliant community of performers and promoters that work together. I find myself inspired and impressed every time I go to a gig here. It’s also a great place to start your career as it’s a tight-knit community where people support each other.

Your early singles, like Flesh & Blood and Cover Me, gained impassioned reviews and were celebrated by many. How do you think you’ve progressed as an artist and do you ever look back on your early days?

I definitely think I’ve progressed. My music now is more lush, instrumentally, and more honest and clear, lyrically.

Lyrics have always been central to whatever I write so I take real pride in people being able to relate to them.

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2016 was a busy year for many of us. What would you say was your proudest memory from the year?

I played a lot of brilliant festivals to great crowds last year. My highlight was playing at Other Voices – which is a prestigious festival in Dingle which happens every year (and recorded for the television programme of the same name). It’s something I grew up watching and being part of it was a dream come true. The crowds there were so appreciative and engaged; I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.

With Relent out, can we expect an album or E.P. this year?

I’m recording new material as much as I can in hopes of releasing a few things before 2017 is out.

You’re playing Servant Jazz Quarters on 15th February. Is this your first time at the venue and do you get to play in London a lot?

This is my first time playing in London so I’m really excited about it. I’m hoping to be back over in the U.K. a lot this year.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @chazlottee

With your music finding a lot of fans across social media and music-sharing platforms; how important are these outlets for a new musician promoting their work? Do you get quite overwhelmed knowing a song like Relent has amassed thousands of Spotify plays?

Spotify has been huge for me. I think the curated playlists are amazing for new independent artists like myself. I can be heard among established artists like Ben Howard, Hozier and Daughter within a playlist.

Relent was played over twelve-thousand times during its first day on Spotify so that was really incredible for me to see. There is no feeling that I can compare to knowing that people are listening and relating to your music. It’s amazing.

Who were the musicians and artists you grew up listening to?

I listened to a mix of whatever my older sisters were listening to – Jeff Buckley, Coldplay; Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers – and whatever my mum was listening to – Queen, David Bowie; Simon & Garfunkel and Don McLean.  I think this really informed my taste growing up.

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

There’s definitely a lot of incredible musicians coming up in Dublin: Maria Kelly (who is supporting me on the 15th), Farah Elle; Barq and Rosa Nutty are all artists I see going really far who are from Dublin.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @webloompresents

What advice would you offer any young songwriting starting out?

Keep writing; write every day.

Be honest and take risks even though they might feel terrifying – people appreciate it.

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

Hundred Waters – Cavity.  I can’t stop listening to this track this week.

______________

Follow Ailbhe Reddy

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PHOTO CREDIT: @olgakuzmenko_photography

Official:

http://www.ailbhereddy.com/

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/alvyred

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/alvred91/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/ailbhe-reddy

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzRCXBOHcUu0pgpQfvJQcgQ

TRACK REVIEW: Charlie Straw – St. Ives

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Charlie Straw

 

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St. Ives

 

9.4/10

 

 

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St. Ives is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BqRYjUuT8c

GENRES:

Folk; Singer-Songwriter

RELEASE DATE:

September 2016

ORIGIN:

St. Ives/London, U.K.

________________

IT has already been a busy year for (great) new music and…

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Charlie Straw looks set to add to the tally. Before I come to him – and raise some positives – I wanted to point at some improvement. It is true Straw has enormous talent and a rich sound. He has fans behind him and gigs lining up – social media is a little bare. What I mean is there is little known about the man beside his music. Were it not for the fact I was sent some P.R. material about Charlie Straw; it would have been hard to learn more about him and what makes him tick. I understand the reticence filling social media with lots of paragraphs and endless revelation. What we have, in Straw’s case, is some fantastic music and all his social media links available online – all on Facebook in fact. It might seem like a gripe but it is one artists need to learn from. It is the early days for him but I am confident he’ll go on to greatness – one of those musicians who can go all the way. When it comes to new musicians, one of the main considerations is getting your name out there and being as visible and open as you can. That is not suggesting every bit of information is online: fans and new followers like to get a sense of where (the artist) came from and the artists that inspired them. What I have noticed, something that occurs with a lot of acts, is they have a few links on their Facebook page but do not really give too much other information. With no interviews and biographies, it can be like arriving at a dating profile with no words (maybe a perfunctory ‘contact me to find out more’). In an age where most people have pretty short attention spans; it is vital those first steps are considered and adhered to. It may seem shallow but there are musicians with full and frank social media pages. They have an official site and lots of cool photos. That may be aesthetic by and large but you’d be amazed how effective that can be. If I, as a journalist have lots of information and a well-laid-out set f photos and social media links then I am going to be likely to keep an eye on that artist and follow them closely. Again, it is a slight minor but one that I bring up for good reason: Charlie Straw has a huge backing behind him and being tipped as a man to watch. Before I continue, let me introduce him to you:

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Charlie Straw is thrilled to unveil his debut single St. Ives alongside ‘The Road To St. Ives’ – a mini documentary showcasing a month-long trip from Edinburgh to St. Ives, as Charlie sofa-surfs his way through the UK to play 30 live dates in 30 days. 

In addition to the documentary, Charlie is pleased to announce details of a UK headline tour for April, including a show at Dalston Boys Club on the 18th April.

Listen to St. Ives: https://soundcloud.com/charlie-straw/st-ives-1

St. Ives has very quickly amassed over 350,000 streams (+ a top 5 placement on Spotify’s UK viral chart), and is a fascinatingly assured introduction to this young artist. Its delicacy and sense of slow-building atmosphere is matched with a stirring, fragile vocal. It sits comfortably along the homespun wooziness of For Emma, Forever Ago era Bon Iver, coupled with that Ben Howard or James Vincent McMorrow lulling sense of emotion and intimacy.

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From that biography, you can tell his debut single is being promoted heavily and is being compared with some great names. I have included that snippet of information because it gives you an insight into the man and where he is headed; a little about who floats his musical boat. In time, I would love to interview him and really dig down to the core – unravel his layers and get a glimpse into the young musician. Before I go on and get down to his music I wanted to raise two points: the variation and quality of young Folk artists and making an impact from the debut single (talking a bit about mood and evocation in songs). Last year, and I have been released from my embargo because it is 2017, I talked a lot about Folk and artists like Billie Marten. She produced, in my learned and unbiased opinion, the finest album of 2017 but it was, in terms of the end-of-year polls, largely overlooked. Sure, she is a teenager making her debut moves and not performing across festivals. It seems like age, modesty and lack of festival run-out has cost her some serious applause. In fact, that is completely unfair on her. She has a great team promoting her work and is, as you can hear, a phenomenal songwriter with a gorgeous voice. I understand the temptation to focus – in terms of the best albums of 2016 – on Beyoncé, Solange and artists who have made huge statements – records that look at politics, society and struggle have a vital role to play in music. Likewise, there have been some fantastic albums made by bands and new solo artists. The thing is: how come albums like Marten’s (Writing of Blues and Yellows) did not crack the lists of any of the music magazines/sites?

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The same could be said when you look at Angel Olsen and Ed Harcourt. Both have Folk as a basis, and whilst not being as pure and ‘traditional’ as Marten’s Folk, deserved higher placings in the rankings of music’s elite. I raise this because I still think Folk, compared with other genres, does not get less attention than it should. If you look at someone like Bon Iver (mentioned above) you hear an artist who has not only evolved as a writer but is one of the most consistent musicians in the world. Since his spellbinding, intimate album (like a man coming from a log cabin in the wilderness), For Emma, Forever Ago, he has produced some of the most memorable and timeless music of this generation. His latest record, 22, A Million, has shades of his debut but is bolder and more hypnotic: there are twisted, distorted fragmentations and dizzying compositions; some of his most oblique lyrics – a masterpiece when you think of it. I know that album did well in some polls but, again, it missed out on other lists. As Charlie Straw proves, he is someone who can take that debut-era Bon Iver sound and makes it his own. Like fellow Folkies Billie Marten and Laura Marling (more on her soon), there is real excitement in music – a sense the new wave of Folk artists can make a real impression. Whilst I have mentioned some great U.S. talent (Bon Iver), our very own Laura Marling looks set to make a huge impact with her latest album, Semper Femina. I am already tipping it to be the best album of 2017 and adore her work. She, like Marten, has a barer and more ‘70s-influenced sound both she, like Marten too, has mature and intelligent lyrics and wonderfully commanding vocal performances. I could put Charlie Straw alongside her: he has that same ambition and effectiveness. Even from the debut single, you know he is hungry to achieve and get his name out there.

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You cannot predict Folk and assume it is a single genre. As the likes of Bon Iver have shown; it can be expanded and stretched; tied with other sounds to create something new and unexpected. I feel there is stuffiness among many critics and an unwillingness to fully embrace a genre that is still seen as quite niche and specialised. In the way there is imbalance in terms of gender and race in music: there is a certain prejudice with regards certain genres. If proof were needed the Folk/Alternative dynamic was arresting and world-class then you only need look at Charlie Straw. His debut single, St. Ives, instantly transplants images in the head and gives you an idea of what the song is about. I shall characterise and interpret the song later, but for the moment, I wanted to look at the debut single and making that impact. Straw knows getting out there and making an impression is the way to keep you in critics’ minds. He has already amassed a loyal following but knows his work is not done. You cannot rely on charm and promise in order to secure fans and momentum. Charlie Straw knows this and is launching his assault. I would understand creating a debut song that fitted into the mainstream and followed its broad rules. Traditionally, you’d pen a song about love and something that has all the dynamics and components the public needed – without really offering too much personality and originality. That might sound like me overreacting but few artists come in that strong: we still see so many young Pop stars squander the chance to make an impact right from the off; slaves to the demands of record labels and expectations. Charlie Straw has gone in with a unique and personal song that has familiar edges but is the sound of a young man and his story. You hear shades of Bon Iver – he has listed the American’s debut album as a guide – but the similarities are emotive and thematic rather than carbon copies of his work. St. Ives is a wonderful track that seduces the heart and makes you want to hear a lot more. A masterful, accomplished single from a young musician making his very first steps.

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The reason why I am so excited about Straw, and why the likes of Laura Marling and Billie Marten are favourites of mine, is the moods and emotions they bring into music. Whether looking at Hampshire icon or the newcomer from Ripon; the two women bring something special, emotive and entrancing into their work. Marling’s latest album will look at femininity and womanhood in many different forms – looking at love and personal issues too – whereas Marten’s debut looked at anxieties, the need to grow and courage (among other themes). Both artists bring in so much candour, beauty and honesty into their music armed with little more than guitars and strings. Maybe Bon Iver’s latest album contained more instruments and electronics but his debut was a sparse and acoustic-heavy record that owed more to the ‘70s Folk legends like Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake (maybe some Neil Young in there). Maybe that is what critics are overlooking: Folk that has its heart in a past time and concentrates on something pure and gentle. Maybe they are looking for something more rousing and spirited? If that is so then they are denying themselves a world of sensational music that gets into the soul and speaks to us all. It is a turbulent and unsure future in terms of politics and where we belong. Things are quite scary so we all need a common ally and cause. Music, in addition to human spirit and protest, is what brings us together. This year will see musicians react to changes and these desires; music that comforts and calms the spirits, I feel, will be favoured over anything else. For that reason, Charlie Straw has a perfect opportunity to grow and get his name on the lips of many. His wonderfully rich and seductive sounds have already been celebrated. He knows how to pen an instant and nuanced song and I expect that to evolve in the form of an E.P. or album. What he has in mind, with regards a record this year, is up to him.

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It is at this point I usually look at an artist’s background and see how far they have progressed. With Straw, we do not look back but only forward. Although St. Ives was streamed a few months ago, it is a song that suggests more is afoot – maybe an album or E.P. this year. Straw has performed cover versions and reinterpreted other songs. He shows himself to be a great interpreter and someone who can make any song his own. In that spirit, St. Ives reminds you of some classic Folk but is definitely the product of Charlie Straw. He brings suggestions of Bon Iver and Ben Howard but is very much his own man. No other artist could perform and record the same way as him. St. Ives arrives from a very personal place and is his childhood memory. If we look at the song itself, the opening notes sound completely still and evocative. Straw has performed live gigs like Sofar London and has that experience under his belt. All of this backstory and experience feeds into a song that is professional and gripping from the opening seconds. The song’s video is, essentially, the thirty-day tour Straw completed – taking him from Edinburgh to St. Ives. The first shot sees him start the car and get that tour underway. The lyrics look at a girl/friend being too far away. From those suggestions, it is as though the tour is a concept or pilgrimage. The track looks at someone back home – a childhood friend that is missed – and that need to get them back. It has been too long so it appears Straw is doing something about it. That concept would make an intriguing film. The premise could be a young musician hankering after a friend/love but making his way to them via a series of towns and shows. That holy quest to reclaim a treasured memory would make an evocative and fascinating film.

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I am not sure whether that motivation was in Straw’s mind – touring to St. Ives to see his friend – but it is a neat and clever companion to the single. Maybe future songs will see similarly lofty and ambitious ideas. As you watch the tour clips (Straw in intimate spaces charting with his crowd) you are invested in a song that resonates from a very real place. Many would hear the song and assume its origins lay in relationship quarters. That is understandable as the hero asks if he is remembered – whether he is thought of when she (friend) is with another man. It seems there is complexity and ambiguity in the tale. Romance is “long-dead” is it is said but a friendship is the biggest loss. It makes me wonder whether the two were sweethearts first and how old they were. The storyline suggests children separated but maybe Straw was a young man finding love in the arms of a very meaningful person. It is not the affection missed but that friendship connection. Even in the earliest seconds, you are brought into the song and get images and impressions. Our hero wants to go back to St. Ives where he was kept warm on winter nights. It felt safe there and harps played: it is a romantic and safe space that provokes fond memories. Maybe he is lost in the city or disconnected from the world he grew up in. In psychological terms, Straw is trying to reclaim the past and revert to a warm state of mind. He has grown up/spent his best days in St. Ives and made some wonderful friends. This one particular friend is the embodiment of a good time and better era. The young man misses that life and ease and that haunts the mind. Just how true to life St. Ives is – whether Straw plays from fiction or takes from his own life wholly – I am not certain but you cannot fault the conviction and emotion. It is a sublime and gentle performance that emanates from the heart and causes shivers to form.

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As the story progresses, you get more insight and a different side of things. Tears were shed and it seems the heroine was not always happy. Maybe she was being used or there was some unhappiness at times. Again, I am assuming it started as a romance but you feel things were not always perfect. The two had their drama but always came back to one another. The hero tried not to “read between the lines” and was learning lessons. It is curious discovering what caused these tears and whether there were some indiscretion and deceit creeping in. Whatever caused the two to be separated – the demands of music or two adults naturally drifting apart – you always yearn they will be reunified. The song’s video continues its jaunt down the country: Straw plays at some rather interesting spots and captivating the crowds wherever he goes. I have mentioned how the song/background has filmic lure and that is no lie. As you hear the track unfold, it has all the components of a great story: the bond and friendship with the sense of unease. There is drama and love and that desire to make amends for the past. Perhaps the two had different ideals and wanted different things. The romance might have died but that loyal friendship remains strong and unyielding. In terms of composition, it is quite light and uncomplicated. The fault lies on the side of our hero (as he confesses) and there is that need to relinquish the warmth of St. Ives. When there, they both lived different lives and wanted different things. Maybe Straw yearned for music and the road whereas his companion wanted something more settled and homely. Those polar ambitions might have caused strain on the friendship and led to some foolhardy words. It is hard to listen to the song and not jump to the end: whether the two got back together or it was cut. In a (good) way, the song is infuriatingly teasing and tense. What is holding the hero back from going down to Cornwall and seeing his friend? Maybe there are too many issues or too much time has passed? This thirty-day tour (and documentary) is the man making a stand and making his way back home. You feel that sense of movement in the song: the train whistling by and the wind in hair; the open road and that quest for satisfaction.

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As the video continues, you get more of a sense of Charlie Straw. His infectious personality and the affiliation he has with the audience. The sofa-surfing tour might have taken energy out of him but it is the love of music and the road that keeps him moving. Ultimately, he wants to make amends and reach his final destination. Whilst the electric guitar is light but emotive; the voice reminds me a bit of a number of singers. There is a familiarity to the sound but it is that recognisable burr that ingrains the song in the mind. Unlike most of his peers, Straw has a varied and rich voice that manages to convey so many different emotions without expending huge energy. The final seconds of the song is a chanted chorus (from Straw) and him reaching his final destination. In the video, he makes it home and is cheered and happy having done so. Where he manages to come back to his hometown in the video, you wonder whether the song follows suit. Did he manage to see his friend and say the things he has always wanted to? There is that degree of mystery but you hope things worked out and he did get to her. However you interpret the song/video, at its heart is a song of true affection and reflection. Straw looks back and knows he made mistakes but wants to make things right. He misses St. Ives and the memories and good times he had there. It will be interesting to see if future songs continue along the same lines and whether we hear anything quite like St. Ives. It is a song I could hear across the national radio heavyweight because it is instant and highly memorable. In terms of vocals, there is a blend of Ed Harcourt and Jeff Buckley where Bon Iver and Ben Howard arise in the composition (and vocals). It would be unfair to compare Charlie Straw with anyone too strongly but it is meant as a compliment. The fact so many others are making sure comparisons is quite impressive. Ensure you keep your eyes out for Charlie Straw throughout this year.

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I have taken up a lot of your time so shall lot ramble on too much longer. Before I bring back my original points and look at where Charlie Straw is headed; it is worth seeing where the young man has come from. I always hate artists that go via the talent show route and get ‘plucked from obscurity’. They do things the cheap way and are not set up for the realities and beauty of the music industry. It is no coincidence (those artists) have short and unspectacular careers. Too many get launched into prominence quickly and are ill-equip to arm themselves for the challenges of music. Those who work from the bottom and do things honestly are better prepared and last longer. Charlie Straw, in spite of the fact he has released his debut single, has already performed at some great gigs and got his work out there. Last year, at The Garage in London, he performed alongside French artist JAIN. She is someone I have tipped for success this year and one of the most intriguing new artists around. Getting that kind of honour so soon is richly deserved and shows what an artist Straw is. He has performed gigs around London and recorded in the south west of England. That contrast, playing in the bustling city and recording in the quiet, would disorientate many but not Straw. Obviously, St. Ives has that South West suggestion and evokes images of sea, countryside and serenity. In fact, Straw loves to record D.I.Y. vocals and favours that sort of homemade, naked sound. He is an artist who would be happy recording music at home and making those kinds of rough and raw songs that few are doing these days. Right now, Straw is preparing for his first headline tour. He has already performed thirty shows in thirty days – his mini-documentary and sofa-surfing right-of-passage form the visual arc to St. Ives’ music video.

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The young man went from Scotland to St. Ives: taking his music down the U.K. and made sure as many people as possible heard his music. That headline tour follows the documentary and sees Straw kick-start that in April. He will play Dalston Boys Club on 18th (April) and keep that momentum going. It is clear Straw has no intention of slowing down and has that demand around the U.K. He has performed at some fantastic gigs and collated many fans but 2017 will be a key year. That thirty-day tour was an amazing experience and hugely memorable for all those concerned. After that, you have the headliner tour and a great chance for new fans to be won and hearts conquered. I know his music will start to be picked up by great radio stations. He seems like the kind of artist who would be a mainstay on ‘6 Music and even reach the ears of ‘Radio 2. Given the fact he has tours afoot, one assumes that signals new material. Someone who performs headline shows must have a lot of material under their belt so it would be wonderful to think an album is afoot. Maybe that is a plan but we do not want to put pressure on Charlie Straw. At the moment, he is getting out on the road and promoting his stuff. St. Ives is a beautiful, sumptuous debut single that signifies a rare talent with a magical touch. Those intimate, fragile vocals and stirring compositional notes evoke memories of Folk greats and current U.S. titans (Bon Iver) but the story and delivery could only arise from Straw. This is his heart and soul in the music and nobody can deny him his rightful place in the mainstream. That will come soon enough and, I for one would love to see Straw headline some of the biggest festivals in the country.

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I shall wrap up by going back to my early points and looking at social media awareness. I know Straw has all the music-sharing sites and social media links on Facebook and makes sure he is visible. I have not seen an official website but that is something to consider. He has music under his belt and tour dates coming; there is that demand for his work so it would be good to see a central website that brings this together. I am not sure if that is something in the pipeline but a definite consideration. I would like to know more about Charlie Straw and where he came from. St. Ives is a window into his past and friendship: a song that recalls a treasured acquaintance and someone dearly missed. The kind of musicians that compel Straw; where he wants to head and where he lives (I am not sure if he is based in London or St. Ives) would help get a sense of who he is and (literally) where he is. It is not a major negative but welcoming the listener in and giving them some background is a crucial consideration. I have seen new musicians provide very little information and see attention go to other acts. Of course, the music will do some talking and is the most important thing but needs to be backed up with some personal information and revelation. I opened by talking about Folk and how it gets overlooked by many reviewers. Last year, as I mentioned, Folk albums did not get a huge showing on the end-of-year-lists. I highlighted my outrage at Billie Marten’s exclusion but feel established acts like Bon Iver should have been further up those ‘best of’ lists. Likewise, newcomers like Jenny Hval and Julia Jacklin (Don’t Let the Kids Win was one of the best albums from 2016) were largely overlooked.

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Maybe 2016 was THAT good and there were limited spaces. I feel Folk still has that reputation as being rather cliché and boring. Many do not realise the sense of adventure and nuance the form has. Laura Marling, godmother of Folk, will arrive this year and give critics a boot in the posterior and hopefully that will awaken the senses. For too long, Folk has played second-fiddle to other genres and not given the exposure it warrants. Charlie Straw has the determination and talent to bring his music (and the genre) right into the forefront. I have mentioned how Straw has a great team behind him and will never be in short supply of backing and gig opportunities. Contrary to a lot of reports about the U.K.’s live circuit – fewer opportunities and venues closing down – there are chances for those with a particular sound and personality. Charlie Straw is happy to play support gigs and smaller venues in order to get his name out there. Having backed JAIN already – and gigged at some great London venues – his mini-documentary, The Road to St. Ives,  finds the young musician visiting thirty different venues and meeting a world of new faces. It is that headline tour in April that will be the most memorable. He will be back in London in spring and wetting appetites. Whether an E.P./album announcement will arrive in the meantime I am not sure but one feels something is imminent. In the meantime, enjoy St. Ives and a glimpse into a rather special artist. I feel 2017 will favour musicians that take the volume down and provide something deep and emotive. Maybe I’ll get that wrong, and some fantastic Rock albums will come, yet I know there is a yearning for music with heart and spirituality. Charlie Straw is the man who can bring some settled calm and beauty into the world and is already proving he has star quality. Throw some support behind him and watch…

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THIS rare musician truly shine.

________________

Follow Charlie Straw

Image may contain: one or more people, night and closeup

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/charliestrawmusic/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/CharlieStraw1

SoundCloud

https://soundcloud.com/charlie-straw

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCz7vogMVMOwEUCiV9oDBIYA

FEATURE: The January Playlist: Vol. 4: Thee Who Cares, Wins

FEATURE:

 

The January Playlist

 

The January Playlist: Vol. 4: Thee Who Cares, Wins

  

Vol. 4: Thee Who Cares, Wins

___________________

THE Trump suitcases have been unpacked in The White House and…

Image result for julie byrne

IN THIS PHOTO: Julie Byrne

former President Obama is headed home. What he does next is anyone’s guess but I am sure he will continue to provide goodwill and humanity to the wider world. In terms of Trump; there is a lot of fear and uncertainty: just what will the first one-hundred days produce? As we come to terms with a four-year (at the earliest) reality; music has a vital role. In this edition of The January Playlist, I have collected new, politically-motivated songs from Gorillaz, Arcade Fire and others: uplifting and hopeful songs and some great new album tracks/singles from the best of music. In addition, and celebrating sixty years of The Cavern Club, I collect songs from some of the legends who have performed there – Stevie Wonder, The Hollies and The Rolling Stones among them. The Beatles defined the venue so I include a collection of their best songs. ALSO, as D.J. Steve Lamacq focuses on the importance and glory of our small venues; I include five live performances from the venues he features (on his ‘6 Music show) next week. Another full and spirited collection of songs to get your teeth into!

_______________

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Gorillaz (ft. Benjamin Clementine)Hallelujah Money

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SpoonHot Thoughts

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Biffy Clyro Flammable

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LIFE Euromillions

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The AmazonsLittle Something

Vinyl Staircase

PHOTO CREDIT: Bryon Chambers

Vinyl StaircaseGerman Wings

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Cage the ElephantCold Cold Cold

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King Gizzard & the Lizard WizardSleep Drifter

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Venture LowsBrenda

CheckmateDessert

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Middle Kids – Never Start

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Diet CigTummy Ache

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THEY U-Rite

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Harlea You Don’t Get It

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Ten FéTwist Your Arm

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Dead Pretties Social Experiment

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JP CooperSeptember Song

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of MontrealStag to the Table

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Women’s March Chant (ft. Fiona Apple)Tiny Hands

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MUNA Crying on the Bathroom Floor

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Arizona Oceans Away

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Kacey ChambersAin’t No Little Girl

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Holly ThrosbyAreoplane 

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PHOTO CREDIT: Savvy Creative

The CreasesEverybody Knows

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James Maslow (ft. City Fidelia)Cry

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John MayerMoving On and Getting Over

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PHOTO: Klaus Carson

KLP Back in the Room

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Lady AntebellumYou Look Good

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Cocorosie (ft. Anohni)Smoke ‘em Out

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Louis BerryShe Wants Me

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Snakehips (ft. )Don’t Leave

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Magnus Bechmann Second Chance

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Los Campesinos!5 Flucloxacillin

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Jesca HoopMemories Are Now

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William OnyeaborFantastic Man

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Troye Sivan (ft. Betty Who) HEAVEN

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Maggie Rogers On + Off

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Tinie Tempah (ft. Tinashe)Text from Your Ex

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Maximo Park Risk to Exist

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BANKS Trainwreck

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Arcade Fire (ft. Mavis Staples)I Give You Power

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Dutch UnclesBig Balloon

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Bonobo (ft. Mick Murphy)No Reason

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GrandaddyEvermore

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PHOTO CREDIT: Phil Knott

SOHNConrad 

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The Proper OrnamentsBridge by a Tunnel

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Breaking BenjaminNever Again

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Menace BeachSuck It Out

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Loyle CarnerStars & Shards

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FEMME Light Me Up

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Club Drive Overthrown

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RonikaPrinciple

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Cloud NothingsInternal World

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Courtney Marie Andrews – Irene

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ToothlessSisyphus

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Mallory KnoxBetter Off Without You

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Chloe Martini (feat. Chiara Hunter)Change of Heart

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Rationale Reciprocate

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Cherry GlazerrNurse Ratched

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GulpSearch for Your Love

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As LionsAftermath

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Frank Carter & the RattlesnakesNeon Rust

Julie Byrne Natural Blue

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MigosT-Shirt

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P.O.S. Lanes

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Pulled Apart By HorsesThe Haze

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TrainPlay That Song

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Sleater-KinneySurface Envy

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Lauren AlainaNext Boyfriend

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WSTRFeatherweight

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PHOTO CREDIT: Matsu Photography @ Johnny Ma Studios – Good Kid Productions

Tired LionsI Don’t Think You Like Me

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The Cavern Club opened on 16th January, 1957; it closed in 1973 before being resurrected in 1984. It has housed some wonderful artists; none bigger than The Beatles – who would perform regular gigs there at the start of their career

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The Beatles – Penny Lane

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The BeatlesWe Can Work It Out

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The BeatlesA Day in the Life

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The BeatlesRevolution

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The BeatlesTwist & Shout (Performed Live on The Ed Sullivan Show)

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The BeatlesEleanor Rigby (From Yellow Submarine)

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The BeatlesWhile My Guitar Gently Weeps

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The Yardbirds For Your Love

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The Hollies Carrie Anne

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Elton John I’m Still Standing

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John Lee Hooker Boom Boom Boom

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The Rolling Stones Paint It Black

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The Who Who Are You?

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The Kinks Lola

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Stevie Wonder Higher Ground

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Queen Who Wants to Live Forever

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Suzi Quatro Can the Can

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Arctic Monkeys  – R U Mine?

Steve Lamacq dedicates his show to independent venues (from Monday 23 to Friday 27 January, 2017). Over the week he visits Essex, Leeds; Oxford, Birmingham and Brighton; he’ll be finding out what makes some of the smallest music venues in the country the most important – whilst raising awareness of the grassroots music scene.

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CitizenThe Night I Drove Alone (Live at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds)

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Dua LipaBe the One (Live at Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham)

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31hours Royal Box (Live at The Jericho Tavern, Oxford)

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Yur Mum(Live at The Bassment, Chelmsford)

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Muncie Girls – Respect / Kasper and Rainbow (Live at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar)

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It has been an emotional and life-changing week for so many people. The world has changed and there is a lot of anger and protest. Things are unfolding, the likes of which we have never seen – let’s hope we never see it again. Regardless of what is happening in America; music continues to inspire and comfort – in addition to addressing political dissatisfaction and corruption. As we put on a brave face, there is a world of great music that is unconcerned with personal agendas and ignoring the pleas of the majority. It brings everyone in and encourages love and unity.  In that spirit; immerse yourself in this week’s finest songs and embrace something pure and dependable.

TRACK REVIEW: The Molochs – You and Me

TRACK REVIEW:

 

The Molochs

 

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You and Me

 

9.3/10

 

 

 

You and Me is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MTZBUXwTUI&feature=youtu.be

GENRES:

Alternative; Pop

ORIGIN:

Los Angeles, U.S.A.

RELEASE DATE:

8th December, 2016

The album, America’s Velvet Glory, is available at:

https://themolochs.bandcamp.com/album/americas-velvet-glory

TRACK LISTING:

Ten Thousand

No Control

Charlie’s Lips

That’s the Trouble with You

The One I Love

Little Stars

No More Cryin’

You and Me

New York

I Don’t Love You

You Never Learn

RELEASE DATE:

13th January, 2017

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ONE of the things I was going to aim for in 2017 was…

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taking myself to new cities – focusing on areas of the world outside the U.K. and U.S. It is, with typical lax discipline and over-ambition I am back in L.A. and concentrating on a rather promising and tremendous duo. I will look at duos/bands once more – before arriving at the boys themselves – but want to look at L.A. promise in 2017 and acts that mix nostalgia and haziness with modern concerns; musicians with a fascinating influence palette and the importance of getting more U.S. artists across to the U.K. (and other parts of the world). I am not disappointed to be back in the warm climate of L.A.: in fact, it is good escaping the bitter cold of the U.K. and looking at what is happening over in California. Whilst the poll-makers have been a little lazy outside of London, L.A. and New York: you can always rely on the Los Angeles music press when it comes to predictions for the year. KCRW Music Blog has collated some of the L.A. bands watch throughout 2017. The duo/band of Electric Guest consists Asa Taccone anMatthew ‘Cornbread’ Compton (Todd and Tory Dahloff play with the band on tour) burst onto the scene with their 20123 debut album, Mondo. The reception the L.P. garnered was quite impressive – perhaps kinder reviews from the U.K. press than the U.S. – and many were struck by the original songwriting. Looking at ethical choices and career considerations: it was a rebellion against love-obsessed albums that offered little diversity. They are a band to look out for in 2017 as there is a demand for a follow-up album – five years is a very long time in music. Elsewhere, and tipped by the same source; Lo Moon are worth a punt and have a long career ahead. Their seven-and-a-bit-minute track Loveless was released last year and impressed many with its sweeping atmosphere and audacious confidence. Ty Segall and Cherry Glazerr are two media-approved acts who are camped out of L.A. – and already are exciting many; tipped as ones to watch his year.

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L.A. Weekly have been busy scouring the local scene for hungry talent worth a damn in 2017. Def Sound, as the reporters defined, is synonymous with his impulsivity. His 2015 album, Kings of Neon, is a personal work with plenty of character, quotable quips and confident, slick raps. “On the other, it’s a showcase of his own omnivorous nature, skipping from manic footwork to worldly R&B to gothic Yeezus rap”. He is someone you will want to familiarise yourself with. Pastel Felt blew many away with their November-released masterwork, Charming Lait. Its lo-fi aggression and big harmonies drowned down-in-the-mix vocals and analog-noise brilliance. It is a blast from the past combined with an atomic bomb of the future. Before I move onto my next point, there are a couple more L.A. acts worth some serious time. Buzz Bands L.A. explained how music is a “two-class system”. If an act is established, has a record deal and money behind them they are ‘ones to watch’ – whether they are much kop or not. On the other hand, the unsigned artists bereft of label patronage will have to fight three times harder to get the same sort of buzz. Moon Honey is an (independent) duo that consists Louisiana native Jessica Ramsey and guitar chap Andrew Marin. Their 2016 was concentrated to making an album but they are, as Buzz Bands L.A. define them, “Kate Bush on swamp gas taking a mystical trip through the bayou”. Moses Sumney and The Regrettes are a contrasting couple of names primed for big things this year. The former is a UCLA alum and has been bossing end-of-year lists for years now – his debut full-length is mooted for release this year. The latter is a Warner Bros.-approved band of girls who are not a ‘girl band’. Do not expect sugary Pop and tales of teenage love dilemmas. Their album is fronted by a sixteen-year-old but (the girls’ album) will carry a parental advisory sticker – expect cursing, suggestive language; scenes of an explicit nature and some f**k*** good music.

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In terms of teen revelation, Billie Eilish surpasses The Regrettes in terms of age (she is still fourteen) and lyrical descriptiveness. The striking L.A. dweller told, on her breakthrough song Ocean Eyes, love is like falling off a cliff – surrounded by napalm skies and apocalyptic gravity. She writes about the perils and uncertainty of love but fills her lyric book with poetry, epic scenery and a frightening amount of talent – far stronger than her older, more experienced contemporaries. Finally, actually four more names from that site that deem inclusion, we have Starcrawler, Alexandra Savior; Lauren Ruth Ward and Phoebe Bridgers. Stracrawler, like Eilish and The Regrettes, are not precocious or patronised because of their tender days – a yellow highlighter strikes their name because of sheer talent rather than their teenage (and unavoidable) years. The boys are another band of back-to-basic Rock purveyors and, although their fashion choices might get them beaten up on the Metro Rail, they are a solid band that are intriguing the beard-stroking journos. of L.A. The conurbation is proudly proffering Alexandra Savior as a 2017 treasure. The Portland (Oregon) songwriter will bring out Belladonna of Sadness – coolest album title of the year so far – on 7th April and has Alex Turner credited on the single Mystery Girl (who co-wrote it with her). Lauren Ruth Ward might have the looks to lure gods from the heavens but her incredible pipes leave jaws hanging lower. Working as a hair stylist; one feels her immense voice and forceful, big personality will mean paychecks this year have more zeroes on the end – another name you should turn your dial towards. Looking at images of Phoebe Bridgers and one can see similarities with London’s very own Laura Marling. Our Berkshire-born treasure shares some D.N.A. with Bridgers but the twenty-one-year-old American employs Rock, Americana and Pop into her music: Conor Oberst, Blake Babies and Julien Baker are names she’s supported and it seems like this experience and hunger will go into an album (speculation rather than fact) very soon.

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There are plenty more L.A. bands/acts ready to impress this year – Warpaint, Dark Waves and Frenship among them – and it is something I will return to in the conclusion. Among the semantically null (journalistic) sentences – many claiming artists to be the ‘next big thing’ when I am loathed to predict who the current big thing is – there is a lot of truth in their clairvoyance and accumulators, tricasts and ante-post bets. Rock Club UK are one of the first (British) sites to tip The Molochs for greatness. Before I go on and investigate this theme more, let me introduce the band (words by Christopher Ziegler):

First, let’s meet Moloch. You remember him, right? The ancient god, the child eater, the demander of sacrifice, the villain in Ginsberg’s Howl(and also real life) and now the personal antagonist of singer and songwriter Lucas Fitzsimons, who named his band the Molochs because he knew he’d have to make sacrifices to get what he needed, and because he always wanted a reminder of the Ginsbergian monster he’d be fighting against. And so this is how you make a record right now: you fight for every piece, and when Moloch takes apart your relationships and career potential and leaves you sleeping on couches or living in terrifying apartments and just about depleted from awful people involving you in their awful decisions, you grab a bottle of wine (and laugh at the cliché) and put together another song. And once you do that eleven hard-won times in total, you get a record like America’s Velvet Glory: honest, urgent, desperate and fearless because of it.

Fitzsimons came to his calling in an appropriately mythic way, born in a historic city not far from Buenos Aires and raised in L.A.’s South Bay—just outside of Inglewood—where he was immersed in the hip-hop hits on local radio. (Westside Connection!) The summer d before he started middle school, a close friend got an electric guitar, and Fitzsimons felt an enirresistible inexplicable power: “I’d go back home and I’d look up guitar chords on the internet—even though I had no guitar—and just imagine how I WOULD play them. I was slowly getting obsessed.” When he was 12, his parents took him back to Argentina, and on the first night, he discovered a long-forgotten almost-broken classical guitar in the basement of his ancestral home: “It sounds made-up, but it’s true,” he says. “I didn’t put the guitar down once that whole trip—took it with me everywhere and played and played. When I got back to L.A., I bought my first guitar practically as the plane was landing.

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This started a long line of bands and a long experience of learning to perform in public, as Fitzsimons honed intentions and ideas and tried to figure out why that guitar seemed so important. After a trip to India in 2012, he returned renewed and ready to start again, scrapping his band to lead something new and uncompromising. This was the true start of the Molochs: “It didn’t make any sense to not do everything exactly the way I wanted to do it,” he says. “I was so shy and introverted that singing publicly sounded like a nightmare come true. But I didn’t have a choice—I heard something inside of me and I needed to be the one to express it.”

The first album Forgetter Blues was released with Fitzsimons’ guitarist/organist and longtime bandmate Ryan Foster in early 2013 on his own label—named after a slightly infamous intersection in their then-home of Long Beach—and was twelve songs of anxious garage-y proto-punk-y folk-y rock, Modern Lovers demos and Velvet Underground arcana as fuel and foundation both. It deserved to go farther than it did, which sadly wasn’t very far. But it sharpened Fitzsimons and his songwriting, and after three pent-up years of creativity, he was ready to burst. So he decided to record a new album in the spirit of the first, and in the spirit of everything that the Molochs made so far: “I wanted to spend less time figuring out HOW we were gonna do something and just actually do it.” The result is America’s Velvet Glory, recorded with engineer Jonny Bell at effortless (says Fitzsimons) sessions at Long Beach’s JazzCats studio. (Also incubator for Molochs’ new labelmates Wall of Death and Hanni El Khatib.) It starts with an anxious electric minor-key melody and ends on a last lonesome unresolved organ riff, and in between comes beauty, doubt, loss, hate and even a moments or two of peace. There are flashes of 60s garage rock—like the Sunset Strip ’66 stormer “No More Cryin’” or the “Little Black Egg”-style heartwarmer-slash-breaker “The One I Love”—but like one of Foster’s and Fitzsimons’ favorites the Jacobites, the Molochs are taking the past apart, not trying to recreate it.

You can hear where songs bend, where voices break, where guitars start to shiver and when strings are about to snap; on “You And Me,” you can almost hear Lou Reed’s ghost call for a solo, and on “I Don’t Love You,” you get that subway-sound guitar and find out what happens when Jonathan Richman’s G-I-R-L-F-R-E-N goes wrong. And of course there’s the charismatic chaos of bootleg basement-tape Dylan—always Dylan, says Fitzsimons—and the locked-room psychedelia of Syd Barrett, especially on “Charlie’s Lips,” Fitzsimons’ ode to—or antidote to—those times when he felt the bleakness completely: “Then a bird lands on a branch nearby, you hear leaves fluttering, you hear a child laughing … all of a sudden things don’t seem so bad anymore.”

So Moloch might still be out there, devouring his sacrifices, but the Molochs are still fighting, too. And that’s why Fitzsimons picked the band name—it’s so he remembers what he’s up against. He’s not celebrating the destroyer of youth and individuality and creativity, he says: “I’m just keeping him in sight so that he doesn’t win.”

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When hearing their name I am reminded of Sex Pistol’s one-and-only album, Never Mind the Bollocks… (only transposing ‘Bollocks’ with ‘The Molochs’). It seems the L.A. chaps have been overlooked by a lot of Los Angeles publications which seems remiss. Maybe there are just so many Los Angeles jewels it is hard bagging them all and giving equal footing. No loss because the duo/band has signed to Innovative Leisure (home of Allah Las and Hanni El Khatib among others) and have been getting some love from The Huffington Post, The 405 and Noisey. I would place The Molochs with any of the (aforementioned) artists because they have a U.S.P. that no other – apologies for the tautology – another good album title? – act possess. Well, not to the same degree anyway! The boys seem like men from another time: happily casting their songs in bygone days through a prism of hazy dreamscapes and retro. fashions. The guys – no huge biography on social media so I am cobbling snippets from their P.R. material – want to perform a bypass of the past – pull the heart out carefully and transplant it with a more modern thing with fast-pumping ventricles – and have no intention of lazily recreating it. Described as a sort of Black Lips-meets- The Byrds type of act; they nod to Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan and Violent Femmes.

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There are few bands out there who take you back to the 1960s/’70s and do so with affection, originality and respectfulness. Many acts are influenced by musicians (of that decade) but it can be quite carelessly and haphazardly done. What I like, and admire about The Molochs, is the way they infuse past sounds into their music with modern ingredients and spices. Their proprietary cocktail sounds fresh and sumptuous without seeming over-familiar and derogatory. In terms of tastes and cocktail-blend their old-school glamour-dreamy concoction mixes a Green Dragon (Woodford Reserve, Buddha’s Finger Liqueur, Pastis, Dragon Fruit, Strawberry Wine, Bamboo Shoots, Honeysuckle, Silver Berries, Fresh Lime) with Picardy Punch No. 2 (Grey Goose, Giffard Berry Liqueurs, Chambord, St Germain, Aronia Berry Juice, Fresh Lime, Rosé Champagne). That might seem a ball-bag of pretentiousness (forgive my fruity, wandering – drinks taken from https://www.barnightjar.com/drinks) but you get what I mean. The boys are exotic and colourful but have so many different elements and ideas. Nothing is predictable and everything comes together with ease and command.  When you find acts – who claim to be matchmakers of vintage glories and modern promise – the chemistry is often lacking nuance and explosion. The Molochs have some great influences (Velvet Underground come through strongly) but place local geography together with the past-years wanderlust. You can hear and smell the sights of L.A. but are transported to an easier, more peaceful (compared with Trump’s ideologies and mission statement) time. In doing so, The Molochs create a new sub-genre. Whether it is ‘retro.-Indie’ or ‘modern-vintage’ I could not tell you. So many artists lack the bravery to do what the Los Angeles are providing. We all know how effective repurposing past sounds can be with the, in my mind, queen of the hustle: Lana Del Rey. The sepia-toned, black-and-white films and ‘50s fabrics of her music entwines and contorts its body with the excitement of fast cars and faster boys (in more than one department); cigarette-scented kisses and rough-stumble anti-heroes. The resultant, and riskily-matched throw-down could result in regrettable, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sex but, instead, you get something harmonious, mind-blowing and hugely satisfying. Del Rey is one of the most remarkable and alluring songwriters in modern music and someone who can combine aspects of 1950s’/’60s’ music/artists with a contemporary aesthetic.

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  PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Fribourg

Stepping away from the vinyl crackle and Super 8 realms and, before I come to the music of The Molochs, I wanted to place the boys in the context of duos/bands – just how en vogue and in-demand they will be this year. There are some stunning bands and solo artists around but I have always yearned towards duos. I have examined why they are such an irresistible force but I think it comes down to the dynamic, choices and bond. Many would assume a relationship-based duo would be most secure: if you were merely friends there is a risk of that closeness and solitude (no other bodies around) would cause bonds. You could also argue lovers who work together run the risk of that much-alluded-to/misquoted maxim: “Never defecate where you eat”. I feel the band can be ungainly and subject to fragmentation. Some members feel alienated and there is often, a lot more prevalent with male bands compared with female, dissension and creative differences set in. Solo artists have the unenviable task of organising their schedule and keeping themselves amused. It can be quite a confined, solitary and unexciting existence. I am over-simplifying but The Molochs does have that deep and solid central bond but are not limited like many bands – The Molochs are credited as a band but the focus is on the two leads. My British mainstream favourite (duo) are Royal Blood. The Brighton boys create a cataclysm of electric grunt and percussive gut-punch in spite of the fact there is the two of them. They have a new album (it is rumored) out this year and look set to bring serious rawk and swaggering cool into music. My underground favourites are London-based Rews. I have mentioned them a lot but for good reason: the girls create sensational, memorable music and are among the most down-to-earth and charming you’ll hear. Between them, they produce a mule-kick of Rock goodness and loin-enflaming noise. Duos are a lot more varied than one might imagine and are not as defined and pigeon-holed as many bands. Because of that, they are free to mix genres and decades in accordance with their own free will and volition; there is a fairer democracy in the ranks and music that reflects that kinship and trust. It is a brief discussion but I just love the way duos operate/sound. The Molochs perform as a full band on the road – and their latest album – but, in many promotional shots appear as a duo – they have the best of both worlds in a sense. I am tipping the band for success in 2017 and excited to see just how far they can go.

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I see myself, in a number of ways, as a cultural attaché. I hear a lot of U.S. bands and aim to introduce them more widely to the venues and fans of the U.K. (and the wider world). I have listed a few eager and talented L.A. artists but wonder just how readily they will be able to transition to the shores of Britain. I have seen many young and inexperienced musicians thrilled at the chance to play in the U.S. and get their music out there. When they return there is that consensus: it would be great to return there and perform a lot more. In terms of American artists coming over here, it is always difficult coaxing them over and providing an appealing rider. Our weather is moody (U.K.-U.S. translation: sh**) and the beaches not quite as bronzed, buff and beautiful as those around California – in fact, you’re more likely to see elderly people wrapped up in coast than heavenly torsos soaking up the rays. If the billowing and fetid belch of Donald Trump’s inauguration is not reason enough to flee the U.S. then our venues and clubs surely will be. I have a lot of love for our resident musicians but am always excited when an American comes over here and gets settled in.  I hope The Molochs spend more time here (they have a couple of dates in London soon) and do a proper tour of the U.K. We need to encourage more international talent to play here for a few reasons. Many of our small venues are under threat and it is hard keeping them cost-effective and busy. I feel a range of acts from across the pond can add resurgence and renewed purpose to some struggling venues. If anything, having American artists playing around Britain provides some variation and nationality mix that we can all abide by – for a nation determined to keep the rest of the world out music has the common sense to open its borders to (hard-working and passionate) immigrants. I feel music can be compartmentalised: so many of our artists are not alluded to in the U.S. or under anyone’s radar. Subsequently, our national press has a very limited scope when it comes to American artists we should all be watching. We need to forge a closer bond with America – not politically as that would lead to imminent apocalypse – but show the political world why music is a much stronger and safer democracy. It would not only be good for alliance purposes but ensure our best new musicians have opportunities to play in America – and vice versa for that matter.

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You and Me is the song I am focusing on but it is by no means the only tracks by the boys. Get a Job Blues was released as part of the Forgetter Blues E.P. and is a lo-fi track that does what the title suggests. The hero is trying to score employment but feels, in order to do so, needs to hoodwink and chance. The employers, as it is said, need someone honest and who turns up: it is felt our man would not be the most reliable option. Constantly moving and skipping along; Get a Job Blues never relinquishes its energy and has that mid-‘60s charm. You are transported back to the era but you never feel The Molochs are transposing or tampering with that decade – only adding their own take on it. Percussion notes are solid and static but add the necessary punch and energy the song requires – elevating it from weary and despondent to alive and eager. If the vocal has that defeatism and the lyrics paint something quite anxious; you never feel weighed or burdened by the song. It is a hopeful song that recognises the state of affairs – needing work and feeling disconnected from society – and strives to rectify it. Other tracks on the E.P., like Drink the Dirt Like Wine and It’s Only Cause, are sparse and acoustic and very much have that live feel. The E.P. is solid and has a distinct sound but I feel You and Me, and the duo’s new album tracks, are better produced and sharper. The sound is cleaner and it is a lot easier to decipher the words. Whereas their E.P. was lo-fi and uncluttered – it did mean there was an emotional limitation and decipherability was an issue at times – now there is more polish and clarity to be found. That has not sacrificed the purity and overall sound: the guys are afforded more lustre and focus. The words and compositions come more into the forefront and the overall effect is more pleasing. Other tracks across America’s Velvet Glory have that same production sound, and altogether, come off a very professional and solid album. That is not to say, as I have mentioned, character and personality are substituted for gloss and finery. The boys maintain their 1960s-nodding sound and sound at their most essential, inventive and spectacular.

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You and Me, then, is the latest single from the album and follows from No More Cryin’ – another song that defines what America’s Velvet Glory is about and how original The Molochs are. The opening of You and Me, whereas their E.P. tracks were sparse and sounding like a two-piece operation, is full and the sound of a band connected and ready. Reviewers have assessed the band’s work and made those comparisons with mid-‘60s bands and the sort of upbeat, jangly Pop that defined that period – you hear a bit of The Beatles’ mid-career work in the opening bars. The introduction mixes the Mersey Beat of The Beatles and Art-Rock of The Velvet Underground. Quite breezy and sunny; there is a seriousness and sophistication in the way the notes are meshed and combined. Before the lyrics come in, you are imagining black-and-white films and retro. scenery – two lovers racing through a highway scene; talking about their lives and where they are heading. The openings lines suggest (the hero) is in a mess and trying to find solid ground. Lyrica are quite simplistic and emotive: there is a lot of pain inside and you feel a man spinning a bit. Maybe a relationship is suffering strains and the two lovers are on different pages. I have mentioned other bands – but only as a compliment. The Byrds and The Mamas & Papas are two names you hear in the music: that same Pop-cum-Folk-Rock cocktail that is evocative, powerful and transporting. The hero is pushing his girl away – although he only wants to be in a blissful and safe state – and wondering what is happening. The lyrics are quite established and familiar in the sense they are a staple for many musicians. That sense of dislocation and imbalance is nothing new but it is the way The Molochs portray the trope that makes it fascinating. You do not get the usual compositional sound and vocal delivery – they take something potentially stale and routine and transform it into something beautiful.

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I am not sure what has caused the relationship to sour but there is mixed messages and drama wherever the duo step. The girl pledges her allegiance to the hero – he is the only one she loves – but is walking around town with a new man. You do not hear why the relationship broke up but it seems like there are lingering emotions and feelings. I can hear the hero’s pain as he tries to keep it together. Sure, the bond has ended but why is the girl telling him he is the one for her?! She is gambling about with a new guy but hooking our man and giving him false hope. Whilst the foreground provides sentiments of deceit and stress: the composition remains cheerfully optimistic and juxtaposes the seriousness of the lyrics. It keeps the song from being too depressed and exhausted. There is that Californian sun and 1960s Pop core; tied with a straight-to-the-point vocal is a fascinating song. This year, I am embracing songs that are instant and have that memorability and hook to them. You and Me is a song that wins you with its flair and heart; the way it rattles and rolls and its elliptical notation. The foreground appeals to the heart and mind whereas the composition gets into the body and soul. One gets hooked by the eagerness and energy of the composition but cannot ignore the lyrical pain. The hero is confused the way things are unfolding and the contrasting messages his former love is sending. She might be with this man but is she using him as a band-aid? Maybe it is a fling and meaningless bond; a way of eradicating the memory of our hero – not in a bad way; trying to get over him. I know mentioning other acts is folly but The Velvet Underground are a genuine name you can link with The Molochs. Whether seeing the band as a duo – the way they are photographed for the main – or a full band; no matter what their configuration, you hear embers of Lou Reed’s band in the L.A. act.

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At the mid-way point is a pleasing and clean compositional interjection which adds Country-esque strings and patterned beats to provide physicality and evocativeness. You transport yourself in the song and what is happening. In that moment one imagines the Californian sun and the open landscape. It has a sprite and edgy tightness but produces a feeling of openness and atmosphere – the yawning vista and carefree sensation of the summer. After such a fraught and revealing verse; it is nice to receive something warming and nourishing. The band keeps the momentum strong and ensures the song is constantly moving and energised. You never get drawn into dark recesses and have any negative thoughts. Whilst your heart is with the hero; your body is propelled and invigorated by the cheerfulness and magic of the music. If one follows the Super 8 video – its grainy beauty and the 1960s-themed scenery – you get a better sense of the song and the sort of images being portrayed. In a sense, the camera/filming style represents the vision of the hero: a little grainy and unclear; maybe seeing things through rose-tinted glasses. He has pain and recrimination at heart but never lets out his true anger. The vocal is constant in the way it sounds. It is never too full or slight but also never elicits a burst of anger or any real spite. Maybe that is the case to gain a sense of mystery but one feels more overt expression would not go amiss. A lot of the ‘60s bands were similarly unemotive and calm but The Molochs could bring some 2017 anger and modernity into the vocal delivery. Regardless, you are invested in the story and follow its trajectory. The hero sees a light ahead (maybe hope of reconciliation and resolve) but is still enamoured of the girl. They both remember how good it could be and was to start; what they have been through and how strong the love was. It is at this moment you become more curious of the break-up and what caused the rift. Maybe things petered out and the spark was lost but that is never uncovered. Perhaps it is a painful memory and one that cannot be shared. Throughout You and Me there is a split between a man who wants the girl back and cannot move on from her legacy; someone who is pouring out his pain and asking some very pertinent questions. That sense of ‘how could this could be?!’ has that double meaning. Maybe them being back together would be the right thing or perhaps transparency (from the girl) would cause less upset in the hero. Whatever the true meanings and reasoning, You and Me is a stunning track from the album and one that defines where they are and where they are heading. Their strongest material since inception: things will be very bright for the L.A. duo/band. From the first notes you are invested in the guys and what they are doing – few other acts have that potency and instancy.

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I have waffled a bit about The Molochs and where they fit in music – looking at L.A.’s best new acts and the merits of duos. Before I return to those points, highlighting a few other Los Angeles music-makers to follow, I will look at the next few weeks/months for The Molochs. The band play The Shacklewell Arms (London) on 22nd May. The too-cool-for-school Dalston bar will be a great setting for the L.A. visitors to ply their trade and put their music out to the people of East London – from there it will spread like wildfire (sure to be a lot of switched-on music lovers at that date). The next day they head off to the Montague Arms in Nunhead (SE14) to entertain the good people – no doubt sample their guest ales, American hotdogs and spit-roasted chicken. In addition, The Molochs are confirmed for Primavera this year and are going to keep themselves busy. You and Me is the duo’s second single and was taken from the forthcoming album, America’s’ Velvet Glory. Recorded with engineer Jonny Bell at Long Beach’s JazzCats studio – I hate them because they get to make music in such an idyllic part of the world! – the L.P. will arrive on 13th (January) and marks the guys as an act to watch closely. Their album has Sunset Strip ’66 stormers (No More Cryin’) and ‘60s Garage-Rock tableaus; Little Black Egg-style heartwarmer-cum-breaker The One I Love and minor-key melodies; unresolved organ notation into the bargain. It is an aural banquet that alludes to the past, drawing in suggestions of times-past but never tries to do it injustice. The boys have a varied and quality-laden vinyl collection and less plunderphonics: more reinventors. The L.A. band has a fondness for past music and lovingly reinterpret their idols through their own eyes. It is impressive finding artists that manage to do this. All too often you see musicians wearing the past with little modesty and poor judgement – ignoring laws of decency, taste and respect. The music (they play) will be obvious and copycat; not adding anything new and sounding derivative and uninspired. That is never the case with The Molochs who show true affinity and knowledge of the past but never intoxicate it or take advantage. All of this comes through on You and Me (and their debut album).

Before I conclude with a bit about the boys’ 2017, I will return to my opening points of L.A. clippers and where that particular ship is sailing to in the waters of music. According to another wise source; Rebel and a Basketcase are not as anti-social and frightening as their name suggests. The Electro.-Pop duo have been compared with David Bowie and St. Vincent and can go from demon-energised to Sunset Strip-romantic within the space of a single song. There is soul and darkness sequestered in the chinks of light and radiance. In the same feature; Twin Temple are singled-out for greatness this year. The duo has been stirring up excitement for a long time and comprises husband-and-wife duo Alexandra and Zachary James – who entwine their personal and professional personalities in Gothic-Soul brews. They have a six-track E.P. forthcoming and are worthy of close focus. Take a look at Billboard’s recommendations and one will find Hey Violet nestled in the groove. 5 Seconds of Summer are mentors of sorts – Hey Violet their willing protégés – and accompanied them on the summer leg of their 2016 arena tour. If the mere mention of 5 Seconds of Summer makes you want to wretch blood into a bucket of toxic waste – that is the first reaction I have – then fear not: Hey Violet are a lot less breakfast-violating and twee than the aforementioned boyband. In fact, there is enough edge and maturity (in their music) to hook those who prefer actual songs over commercialisation and teenage gratification (sounds mass-produced to appeal to those two young to know any better). Aside from my near-psychotic rants, the selection of L.A. artists I have included in this piece shows what a smorgasbord of talent can be discovered in the city. The Tracks’ debut single, Go Out Tonight, marks the Boyle Heights-based band for great things this year. The group is not new: they have been formulating and solidifying their sound for years and are well-respected and popular. I would expect them to transition to the U.K. and discover their music has reached eager ears here. They are a band I would like to see, in addition to The Molochs, come to Britain and show their mettle.

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I will sign-off by looking at the band and how this year will fare – taking a quick (repeated) peak under the skirt – like a voyeur watching through slitted blinds – of new music and sounds emerging; a bit about The Molochs. In terms of my featured group; they have a busy year ahead and are in the position where they are getting attention from both sides of the Atlantic. When they come to London, albeit a brief jaunt, they will attract a lot of new support. It will raise awareness of their music but do so much more. Fellow L.A. artists will be put under the spotlight – people compelled to check out the local compatriots of The Molochs – and encourage venues like The Shacklewell Arms to scour the haven of Los Angeles music and diversify their stage. It is always good promoting local artists but there is a world of international taken hungry to play the U.K. I have stated how many great venues there are across London (and the nation as a whole); tonnes that would host The Molochs. I hope they do come back here and enjoy a longer stay – surely dozens of places they could perform at and new territory they could claim. Until then, they have touring commitments and will be taking America’s Velvet Glory on the road. I know the people will lap it up, and from what I have heard of the record, it is not to be missed. The songs (across the L.P.) build on You and Me’s jangly ‘60s Pop and paint all manner of scenes. There are Dadaism swathes and Post-Impressionist flecks; Cubist brushstrokes and Fauvism undertones. What you get – a new wave of pretension aside – is a band who can fuse dreaminess and sunshine and create something cohesive, developed and alluring. You never listen to their music and let it play in the background: full attention is demanded; music that appeals to all the senses and remains long in the imagination. The guys are well aware of how competitive and challenging musical success is and taking big steps ensuring they remain and grow. Their album is packed with exceptional songwriting and beautiful, thoughtful songs – never too busy and complex; never too simplistic and one-dimensional.

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The three singles/songs that have kick-started and defined this year (so far) are London Grammar’s Rooting for You; Dutch Uncle’s Big Balloon and Maggie Rogers’ On + Off. Between those tracks, there is passion and defiant strength; we have uplifting, big choruses and something laconic, wistful and sepia-toned. I love London Grammar’s ‘comeback’ single; not only because it sees them return from the wilderness but is one of their strongest offerings yet – framing an immaculate lead vocal (from Hannah Reid) and lyrics of hopefulness, loyalty and emotion. It is shimmering, evocative and soulful – a beautiful reminder of why the trio have been much-missed. I might actually need Electroconvulsive therapy in order to remove the song from my hippocampus. With its subtle, but slicing, riffs and sing-along, addictive chorus; the nuance it provides and the smiles it induces – a song that is impossible to ignore. Aside from the Manchester band, I have been enjoying Maggie Rogers’ music for a little while now. Following from stunners like Alaska: her new track, On + Off, is an immersive, hugely impressive track that marks her for fantastic things (she plays London in February if you are around). Thinking about it, Laura Marling’s Wild Fire (the second single to be taken from the forthcoming Semper Femina) has lodged in the brain and is a typically remarkable track. My point is, and putting this train of thought back on the rails, between those tracks we have, in my view, what 2017 will be about. Revelation, tenderness and emotion together with spirit, energy and memorability. This is what music should be about and what our best artists are endeavouring to do – eradicate the tragedy and strange politics of last year and produce something wonderful. The Molochs manage to combine all these elements in songs like You and Me. They encapsulate contrasting emotions and provide something retro. and distrait. Even if the composition and vocals have that vintage, dreamlike quality they are never inferior and slight. So much potency and strength go into the song and you are gripped by every layer and element. Despite being released at the tail-end of last year; it leads the charge of America’s Velvet Glory and one of the most promising albums I have heard in a while (from a new band). I will try and catch the guys in London but would suggest you get your ears…

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AROUND their wonderful music.

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