PHOTO CREDIT: Arnab Ghosal Street Photography
I Feel Like Dancing
I Feel Like Dancing is available at:
Recorded at Grand Cru in August 2016
Written by Albert Man
Produced by Rhys Downing
Piano, lead vocals: Albert Man
Drums, backing vocals: Collette Williams
Guitars, bass: Rhys Downing
Violin: Sarah Lynch
The E.P., Nothing of Nothing Much, is available to pre-order at:
I Feel Like Dancing
Diamond in the Rough
You Had Me at Hello
Do You Think About Me?
You Had Me at Hello (Live)
3rd February, 2017
WHEN tackling any new musician I always feel compelled, before getting to the music…
to look at their background and what makes them special. When it comes to Albert Man, there is plenty to recommend. I shall come, with customary subterfuge in the middle, to the man of the hour soon but wanted to introduce a few topics. There is a lot to be said about the modern-day singer-songwriter but discovering those worthy of extra appreciation can be tough – I want to look at those, including Man, who are deserving of that kind of focus. In addition, I want to look at artists who expend a lot of time ensuring their music/work is as available as wonderful as it can be; taking a gander at how tastes may change as we head into this year. That first topic is one I bring up and investigate each time a solo artist comes to my attention. In the last few reviews, I have speculated how 2017 will differ in terms of the type of musician favoured. I have speculated bands will come more into the fore – perhaps no exaggeration or lazy prediction. With the likes of London Grammar, Royal Blood and The xx releasing new material this year, it is not only bands (trios and duos too) who will be getting a lot of press attention but British acts. Last year, the best and most exciting albums were made, according to press consensus, by U.S. artists. Whether created by Beyoncé or Chance the Rapper: it was the Americans who seemed to channel a rich vein and give 2016’s music its definition, soundtrack and emotion resonance. This year, I feel British artists will do likewise and give 2017 is power, oomph and passion. Whatever form that takes, in terms of solo or band-made albums remains to be seen but I feel we will be seeing a lot more attention to artists who provide calm and reason. It may seem like an odd thing to highlight but 2016 was a fraught and unpredictable year.
Most of us were left shell-shocked and exhausted by the constant wave of tragedy and disappointment. This year, one hopes, it will be a smoother ride and we’ll see few news stories that have us reaching for the tissues. That being said, we still need comforting from the past year so, in that sense, performers who ease the senses – whilst offering a bit of kick – are going to be the ones to watch. It may seem like an odd, very niche specification but those are quite broad parameters. Bands, as I have said, will come much more into the fore and, whether it is the grit of Royal Blood or the emotiveness of The xx, we will see a lot of great (British) groups being taken to heart. In honesty, who knows just how this year will play out – in terms of what is demanded and celebrated – but I know it is the songwriters who put their heart and soul into their work that will come out on top. Quality and passion the hallmarks of any songwriter worth their salt and, we have seen in recent years, a trend starting to unfold. There was a time when generic, overly-processed Pop/Dance acts were all the rage – they are still in vogue to an extent – but there is, now, a greater leaning towards credible songwriters who provide the listener something deep, honest and real. Among those new songwriters you should be paying attention to: there are few as intriguing and promising as one Albert Man. I shall go into more detail (and sing his praises) shortly but before I do it is worth meeting him:
“Praised by BBC Radio Head of Music as a “brilliant singer-songwriter,” Albert Man is an “insightful artist to watch” according to Pledge Music’s managing editor Matt Conner. He has established himself as one of the more interesting songwriters on the London gig circuit with avid support from RockShot Magazine, who recently compared his songs to that of “Ben Folds in verse, wit and chord changes”.
The Manchester-born, half-German singer-songwriter plays both solo and with a full band and delivers “stunning vocals” according to the Alternative Friday blog. He writes piano-led, melodic pop songs described by Fresh On The Net as “sweet piano led shenanigans that come over like the lovechild of Billy Joel and Adam Levine”.
Albert released his eleven-track, self-produced album Cheap Suit in 2016, receiving airplay on both FUBAR Radio and BBC radio. It was described as “a wonderful wonderful album”, high praise indeed from BBC presenter Ady Dayman. Two songs from this album were also chosen for Tom Robinson’s Fresh Faves on his Fresh On The Net blog, “It’s testament to the pervasive quality of his songwriting that twice now he’s been selected by our wonderful weekend voters.” – Biff Roxby (Fresh On The Net). His debut four-track EP was “a bit special, to say the least” according to music blog GetIntoThis and he is set to release a brand new four-track EP, recorded at Pete Townshend’s barge studio, in early 2017.
Albert was recently chosen by Best Of British Unsigned as “One to watch” saying they “love Albert’s sound”. He has been on London Live twice and BalconyTV, has played at The O2 Priority Lounge before Muse, The Verdi Room in The Royal Albert Hall, Sofar Sounds Liverpool, Ronnie Scott’s, Jimmy’s Harvest Festival, The Half Moon Putney, The Barfly, The Garage, The Bedford, Hotel Café Royal, Servant Jazz Quarters, Night and Day in Manchester, The Grand Social in Dublin, Hard Rock Cafe’s 45th birthday and was a finalist in the London Coffee Music Project. Having been described as “one of the most genuine, hard working artists on the live music scene with a steely work ethic” in a recent review, he demonstrates this by the frequency at which he performs so keep your eye on his upcoming gigs list (www.albertman.com/gigs) to see when and where he’s playing next!”
Albert Man is, for very good reason, a reviewer’s dream. In so much as his music is compelling – urging one to delve into it and decipher hidden meanings and strong emotions – he/his management expends a lot of time getting peripheral considerations nailed. A musician is more than their music and the entire portfolio must be full and informative. What I mean is the website and visual side of things needs to be good. It is all very well having some fantastic songs but if the fan/listener struggles to put a face to a name – I have seen so many musicians without photos and biography – then there is only so far they are going to go. Success and longevity is more about the complete package than the music alone. For that reason, and with completion being stiff and fierce, there is no excuse to be lazy with that side of things. Man is someone who ensures the intrepid consumer has his music at their fingertips but is treated to a lot of information, photos and videos. If you look at his official website then you have everything you could possibly want there. It is very well-designed and colourful; it is interesting and contains a lot of information and news. You get to see Albert Man (through live shots and portraits) and learn more about the man behind the music. In that sense, be you a reviewer or listener, you get to know about the artist – which gives the music itself extra dimensions and meaning.
That is what I am looking for in a modern musician. When reviewing London-based band Super Paradise yesterday, I raved about the music but was disappointed by one thing: the websites and visual aspects were largely overlooked. Only one/two photos on their Facebook page; no Twitter account and no real revelation or human touch. I know the band will go far but, if they want to get there anytime soon, they need to spend more time getting their social media pages up-to-scratch. Again, many might say the same thing: “If the music is good then who cares what the websites look like?!” Music today is less a vocation and passion as it is a business. If you set up a company and sell a good product you can’t expect your profit and loss sheets and cash-flow forecasts to look good if your business plan is shoddy – can you tell I studied Business at college? Just with a business: musicians need to consider all aspects when it comes to success and remaining on the scene. I have seen many bands/solo acts that have, without coincidence, lasted a short time because their social media pages are hollow and threadbare. I shall leave that point to lie but my point remains: if you do not put necessary effort and work into ALL sides of music then how can you expect a member of the public to stick with you?! I guess many could say if the music is THAT good then all will be forgiven. That is true but how many new musicians are ever that good and enticing?
Albert Man, many would argue, is one such musician who looks like he will be around for many more years to come. I have recently interviewed him and was blown away by the depth and passion of his answers. Here is someone who cares about music deeply and revels in every moment and adventure. A lot of artists get burned-out and fatigued by the demands and obstacles music offers. Man has the same reality but he has a positive and endlessly ambitious attitude that goes into his music and live performances. I looked at how tastes might evolve this year and the type of artists we will be hearing a lot more from. In so much as I have raved about bands and the dynamic that will come into 2017 raging: one cannot overlook the ground-swell of fantastic solo musicians emerging. Man is someone who will transition into the mainstream and join the best-of-the-best. Every magazine/site has published their list of ten artists to watch this year. Billie Eilish is one artist worth watching. Having been compared to the likes of Lorde and Lana Del Rey; the fourteen-year-old American has a rare sophistication, maturity and sense of authority that belies her young years. RAY BLK is another artist who blends themes of love and hometown strife with intense performances and heartfelt lyrics. Maggie Rogers is another artist being tipped for greatness and small wonder: the fact her song Alaska has not only took fifteen minutes to write but has stunned critics is one very good reason to follow her closely. Whilst a lot of polls – including BBC’s ‘Sounds of…’ – have focused on Urban acts (heavily) there seems to be one truth: artists who provide emotion and revelation seem to be in-demand. Once was the time hard and bracing groups were all the rage but it appears, bands will be big this year, the solo artist that put their heart on the line is going to win. Albert Man has created Nothing of Nothing Much at just the right time. That is released next month but is a record full of tender and revealing songs; more upbeat and rousing numbers and plenty of personality and heartfelt moments. These are all the ingredients required and demanded by critics and listeners it seems. I am excited to see Man not only capture a lot of new fans this year but take that all-important step towards the mainstream – one I am sure will happen in the next couple of years.
Nothing of Nothing Much is the latest work from Albert Man but not his first. Cheap Suit was the curiously-titled album that contained eleven tracks about love, hope and betterment. There were some darker moments but, for the most part, you get energy, drive and singalong vibes. It is a stunning album that was taken to heart by many and played across radio; gaining a lot of supporters and showing what a strong and unique songwriter Man is. Slam the Brakes was released in 2015 and was the first E.P. from Albert Man. The four-track collection focused on love but did so with originality and distinct personality. True Romance has skip and heavy percussion and frames that deep and commanding voice. Vivid scenes and picturesque scenes draw you into the song and helps with a catchy and instant chorus. Hit & Run is more soulful and calmed but soon goes through the gears and has flair of America – a little bit of an accent coming from Man. In that sense, you get embers of U.S. Country/Pop and Soul; a song that sees the hero yearn for that one number – the one the girl wrote down; mystery as to whether they will see each other again. Cheap Suit songs like Don’t Be That Guy and Skimming Stones rank alongside the most impactful and entrancing songs of Man’s career. The former looks at types who fist-bump and are the humans you try to avoid – a cautionary warning for anyone who desires to turn into that. The latter, and Cheap Suit as a whole grows from the debut E.P. with Man developing as a songwriter and vocalist. More original, varied and nuanced than Slam the Brakes: it is an album that says so much and is the finest work, to that point, from Man. I think I Feel Like Dancing and Nothing of Nothing Much is another step forward from Man and he seems like he’s at his peak. That confidence is at the maximum and the songwriting even more exhilarating and spectacular. It is no exaggeration to say Man was fully-formed and stunning on his debut E.P. but has grown as a performer and songwriter since 2015. I can tell how personal and meaningful Nothing of Nothing Much is and, aside from the misleading, lackadaisical title, it is a work that gets right into the heart and will not only uncover emotions in the listener but compel everyone to reinvestigate (the E.P.) time and time again.
I Feel Like Dancing is the latest single from the E.P./mini-album and explodes right from the traps. The early, springing piano line reminds me, rather oddly, of Elton John – not an insult but few modern artists evoke his sound and wonder. The song’s early lyrics look at failure and a bit of a no-hoper. Whether it is a song about our hero or aimed at another person: you feel there is submission and sense of trying-but-doomed-for-failure nature to the track. Not getting the job (“Didn’t even try”) or the girl (“Didn’t seem to get it right”); it seems like Man/the song’s subject has been a bit casual in his approach to employment and relationships. Knowing Man, and how secure and happy he is in life, I am looking at this song in another light. Perhaps aimed at a general figure/acquaintance, we all know the type that has tried to improve their life but seem content to throw on their favourite record and dance. I myself have attempted to relocate and find new work; put effort into relationships but always find music is that distraction and salvation. The first verse skips and hops along with abandon: our man casually listing the failed attempts and shots at fulfilment. Maybe these considerations are not that important. In any case, the hero is not letting things stress him and determined to ensconce himself in the purity, magic and dance of his favourite music. There is enormous fun and frivolity to be found in the opening moments of the track. One never feels like Man/the song’s hero is blowing off important things in life but realising the importance of music and how important it can be. Given the stress we all feel in life; I Feel Like Dancing seems to speak for us all. Everyone gets to that stage where they aim for things but either feels unmotivated or unconcerned. Music is that redemption and salvation: the thing that can erase all the woes and take the mind somewhere special and wonderful.
Like previous songs/works it is the voice that comes through strongest and makes the biggest impression. Man has that deep boom of artists like George Ezra but lighter, falsetto strands. It is a nimble and emotionally-wide voice that can bring command and vulnerability together within the space of a line. When our man is dancing he can hear his heart sing; he is lifted and in a better place. “When I get that feeling deep within” it goes; music has to be let in and slake the thirst that lingers. After the first verse – with the lists of things not achieved – the chorus is a more serious, but by no means had a less immediate sound than what come before. The chorus is one of the most effective and fun of Man’s career but there are some serious messages lingering underneath. I guess, in so much as music is that elixir and wonderful thing, the fact a lot of life has been passed by is rather thought-provoking. Maybe there is a bit of the hero that feels music is the only thing that matters – work and love are taking a back seat to its grasp and hold. I know Man is settled in life but there are those who do often put everything on the backburner assuming it will all work out okay. Maybe I am over-thinking but I Feel Like Dancing does provoke some deeper thoughts. As it moves on, the instrumentation propels and tees the vocal perfectly. The piano is constantly spirited and flowing whilst the percussion is the backbone that drives the song forward and acts like the heartbeat of the piece. From the chorus – and the powerful, sturdy performance – it is lighter and funkier going into the next verse. That verses elements such as marriage and “that perfect life” overlooked in favour of music and that one song. Many of us share the same sentiments: music and its joys are more important than a perceived ‘perfect life’. What others might deem essential and normal – a house and marriage; a rather predictable life – other, more free souls do not want that responsible, albeit it dull life that so many are subscribing to.
Man is a leader and champion of that rebellious spirit. Not wanting to be tied to mortgages and humdrum existence: he is dedicating himself to music and the pleasures it provides. Man has always been a master when it comes to build-up and explosive choruses. This is no expectation as he crafts an instantly memorable and charming chorus that will win diehard fans and new followers alike. Even if you are not a big fan of mainstream Pop and like-minded artists; Man is going to convert you and is much more credible and talented than most of his peers. The songwriting is much more interesting whilst the vocals wider, more emotive and exciting than the majority of acts out there. Throw into the mix a composition that does not place the instruments down the mix – they are integral to the mood and storyline – and you have a wonderful lead-off single from a fantastic E.P. With its cracking percussion-and-piano blend you have that romance, power and excitement; the bass and guitars provide electricity, elasticity and vivaciousness whilst the violins give an aching, classical quality to the song. All things considered and it is a stunning song from Albert Man and one of the finest things he has put his name to. I Feel Like Dancing is one of those songs that seems simple and obvious on paper but yields new light and possibilities every time you hear it. I urge listeners to check the accompanying video out as Man always puts a lot of effort and thought into the promotional videos. For I Feel Like Dancing you get performance footage but a lead heroine that is enraptured in the music and surrendering to its potency and seduction. The lead single from Nothing of Nothing Much is a hugely impressive number from Albert Man and proves he is one of the most important and consistent songwriters currently working in this country.
Okay, I have rambled on about music and Albert Man for long enough but for very good reason: he is someone who is already fascinating and hooking reviewers and looks certain to be a star of the future. I have expounded many drooling words about his music but, before I get back to him and the next few months, wanted to bring in my original topics – applying them to Albert Man having heard I Feel Like Dancing (and his album). Whether you class Nothing of Nothing Much an album or extended-E.P. (it has six tracks; included is one live track) you cannot deny the range of themes and consistency that runs right through it. I wanted to focus on I Feel Like Dancing because it is the E.P.’s opening track and the first thing one will hear. I am a big fan of his past work but can see the new confidence and inspiration going into his work. Perhaps it is the increased touring and passing of time that has ensured Man is among the most fascinating songwriters in the U.K. – there are many reasons, to be honest. I have looked, and suggested, those artists that we will hear more of in 2017 but there seems to be that desire for musicians who get into the heart.
I am not suggesting every hard-hitting and raw musician will be overlooked – bands and Urban acts will be hugely demanded – but many are looking for a blend of energetic sounds and lyrics that provide warmth and security – get you thinking and compels you to listen over and over again. Acts who possess this are going to go far but you need to have a good social media set-up and make sure, if you have an official website, it has to be revealing and give a glimpse into the artist at the very least. So many musicians overlook this vital consideration and many pay the price. The actual music itself is the most important thing but you should never belittle or diminish the importance of ‘the complete package’ approach. There are going to be a lot of new artists coming into the industry – at mainstream level and underground – and those who survive and prosper are those who make sure new fans and followers do not have to spend hours on a search engine – trying to piece together an artist and struggle to find their music. We have all made our way through the turmoil of 2016 and emerged the other side more hopeful and better – whilst a little broken and affected at the same time. Music is, and always will be, that thing that offers hugs and protection against the heartache of the world. Now, more than ever, there is that need for musicians to fill voids and distract our minds from what is happening around the world. Those who understand that – whilst providing stunning songs into the bargain – will do well in 2017, that is for sure.
Albert Man is a musician that is always busy and keen to take his music as far as possible. The half-German, Manchester-born artist is now in London but has performed around the U.K. He is in a city that not only has a multitude of great venues but has a loyal and solid fanbase in the capital. Over the last couple of months, he has played gigs in venues like The Borderline and The Hospital Club; smaller gigs in Caffè Nero (various locations) and has a February gig at St. Pancras Old Church. Nothing of Nothing Much is a rich and exciting work that frames a stunning voice and intelligent, personal songwriting. Throughout, there are songs of revelation and passion; self-examination and the sheer abandonment that comes with movement and dance – plenty of memorable lines and incredible choruses. It is not going to be long until Albert Man is in the mainstream and making his way around the festival scene. I am going to follow his career and see just how far he will go. Make sure you get Nothing of Nothing Much and explore the E.P. in full. Into this year, Man will be touring and promoting the album but will be thinking ahead. Perhaps there will be another album or songs; maybe he will produce an E.P. or spend more time performing. Who knows what he will do but there are going to be new supporter’s and fans backing him all the way. I have been a bit down and reserved with regards solo artists lately the last few years but have, over the last couple of months, seen so many bright and hopeful musicians come through. Aside from the top-tens produced online – I urge you to follow as many as possible – I am seeing a lot of underground/unsigned solo artists show just how promising and hungry they are. We are entering 2017 with plenty of hope and desire. Among those musicians that can overturn the negativities of 2016 whilst capitalising on the wonder music brought us…
ALBERT Man is right there with the best of them.
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