INTERVIEW: Tim Kasher

INTERVIEW:

 

 

Tim Kasher

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IT seems odd interviewing a Nebraska-based artist…

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who, a few days ago, was half-a-mile away from me. I did not know he was touring down here. The fact he is in the U.K. was a bit of a surprise. Tim Kasher is in Leeds’ The Brudenell (tonight) before heading to Studio 2 in Liverpool tomorrow. At the end of the month, Kasher will leave us but, as the interview shows, is shocked by the (rare) sunny weather in the U.K. Not that he can get used to that because he is leaving and it is spring – the sun will disappear before he does! Before he departs us, I was keen to know what his new album No Resolution was all about. Kasher talks about the process and inspiration on the album; what it is like balancing solo work with Cursive and The Good Life duties – he is singer and guitarist for both. Also, Kasher talks about his current U.K. tour (he was heading to Glasgow’s King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut the evening he wrote these answers) and follow-up plans for this year. I asked what the mood was like in the U.S. with Trump as President; a couple of bands he would recommend to us and how he got into music in the first place.

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Hi, Tim. How are you? How has week been?

The week has been good thanks – great, even. Rare nice, sunny weather in the U.K. – which I wasn’t expecting for this time of year. I probably just jinxed it, huh?

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

Sure. I’m Tim Kasher: singer/songwriter for both Cursive and The Good Life: both bands hailing from Nebraska. I’ve also been releasing albums under my own name since 2010.

No Resolution is the new album. What can you tell us about the ideas and types of songs on the record?

It’s a bit sad, even for me, as it delves deeper into what feels like real characters – struggling to find that middle ground necessary to make lasting relationships work.

Along with that comes a heavy dose of existentialism that can crush one’s ability to move forward – also debilitating our relationships with others (and oneself).

You are the singer/guitarist for Rock legends Cursive and The Good Life. Are you still active with those bands or taking a break? What compelled you to go solo in the first place?

Yes. Both are still active, though I tend to have a keener focus on one specific project at a time these days. I starting recording under my own name as it simply felt like the right time to start doing so. I enjoy all these monikers but working under my own name brings a different approach than working with a group.

No Resolution is your third album. Would you say it is your strongest work and how does it differ from your previous two?

Sure. I’ll say that, why not.

I think it’s (more fully) a sad, orchestrated album – whereas The Game of Monogamy was sort of ‘half’-orchestrated; Adult Film was more of a Rock-band record.

It is quite cinematic and sweeping. Was there a reason to shift sound and style or is it part of your evolving musicianship?

Mostly just what I felt like doing at the time!

Would you say the album, as a whole, is a concept-piece or is it more about everyday emotions and occurrences we all face?

The latter sounds more appropriate, though.

I do hope it works well as a complete listen as that’s my intention with every record.

The stories do revolve around similar characters throughout – which can lean more to the thematic.

No Resolution is released on 15 Passenger. What can you tell me about the label and why it was established?

15 Passenger is a new label started by the Cursive members: Ted Stevens, Matt Maginn and myself.

It was initially started as a means to release the Cursive back-catalogue but we got excited about the venture and decided to try some releases out as well.

No Resolution will also be released on blue-and-white splatter-pattern vinyl for a limited run of one-thousand. It is quite a cool touch. Do you think more artists and bands should do this as vinyl is very much coming back into fashion?

Absolutely.

Simply put: they are cool looking and it is fun!

I believe you are touring the E.U. and the U.K. How far into the tour are you and where are you heading in the coming days?

We’ve managed to put about seventeen shows behind us already and have seven more to go. I think that’s the correct math? We’re heading to Glasgow this evening (King Tut’s’: such a great venue and people!) and then south toward Leeds, Liverpool; Cambridge, Brighton. After that, we head over for shows in Nijmegen and Hamburg (where we will be flying out).

What is the mood like in the U.S. at the moment, with Trump in office? Does that influence your music or do you remain detached from the political turmoil?

Everyone is in great moods now that we have the great Donald Trump in office – to make us healthy and wealthy.

JUST KIDDING. IT IS AWFUL. SOMEONE TURN ON THE LIGHTS AND END THIS NIGHTMARE . IT ISNT FUNNY ANYMORE. HELP.

Can you tell me how you got into music? Was there a particular artist or moment that lit that fuse?

At a young age, I could feel the need to create and tell stories. Like, really, really had to – by any means necessary.

We had a guitar laying around the house (oddly, no-one played) so I feverishly learned how to play. Simon and Garfunkel and Cat Stevens were important at a very young age. Then it was The Cure and Violent Femmes that kept the torch lit.

Which albums have meant the most to you as a musician?

In recent years it has been Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love and Portishead’s Third.

Who are the new artists you recommend we connect with?

Meat Wave and Campdogzz!

Have you any advice for new songwriters emerging at the moment?

Sure. Do it because you love it; because it makes you feel good about who you are and what you do.

Do it in an attempt to connect to a few other people but don’t plan on success nor seek it out as a means for happiness – because it won’t make you happy anyway. The former things I mentioned will make you feel good about what you do.

Hopefully, the end result will be your true, honest self coming through the music. That’s what others will recognise, respect and relate to.

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

The Well by Campdogzz – thanks!

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Follow Tim Kasher

 Image may contain: 1 person, beard

Official:

https://www.timkasher.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/TimKasher/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/timkasher

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/timkasher/

Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/artist/3e4qYL0Jd2HezQLZsCTqpN

YouTube (15 Passenger):

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOdBgHuUUAgpO9LGq8MwVfg

INTERVIEW: Zaflon

INTERVIEW:

 

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Zaflon

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ZAFLON is a producer and songwriter who is quickly…

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gaining praise for his production techniques and incredible songwriting. He has produced his own music since the age of sixteen and is keen to use live instrumentation to create a very real and human sound. Recent recordings have used field-recordings and oldskool breakbeats; some great samples and something wonderful evocative. I talk to him about that and latest track, Sincerity. Zaflon is putting a track out a month and is keen to keep production. I quiz him about that decision and what he hopes to achieve this year. Music, to him, is about the reflection of his life and the people met along the way. That said, I was curious to know about his music origins and the artists that have resonated with him; whether we can see an album at some point and what it feels like being compared with some Trip-Hop heavyweights like Massive Attack. In addition, Zaflon selects three albums that have meant the most to him and the new artists he is tipping for success.

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Hi, Zaflon. How are you? How has your week been?

Yeah, wicked, man. Been working on some new sounds; turning photos into audio

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

My name’s Dan Clarke (A.K.A. Zaflon). I’m a composer/producer from South West London making wavy tunes for people on headphone commutes.

Sincerity is your new track. What can you tell us about the new single and the inspiration behind it?

It’s a dark, quasi-political Trip-Hop tune with a classic ‘90s flex. The inspiration was people of power feigning sincerity to get what they want.

The track is a collaboration with Gilan and Lefty. What was it like working with them and what do they add to the track, do you think?

Gilan brings the dark poetry and haunting melodies every time – she’s great to work with because she likes to push herself and doesn’t get precious about ideas when they don’t fit. I always start with a concept and pen it out on a spider-diagram first. At this stage, the instrumental is quite embryonic but carries the song enough to write to. Lefty, I was actually over at his studio in Chiswick working on some of his stuff when I played him the Sincerity demo. He immediately got inspired, and before I knew it, had written and recorded bars for the tune. I got back home, mixed it down and it fitted so perfectly. I almost couldn’t imagine the song without it now.

I am interested in the video. It is quite Lynch-ian and dark – suiting the mood of the song. Whose concept was the video and what was it like shooting it?

It was a cold February Friday night. Kingston has that that cold capitalist veneer with a soft and vulnerable core. The concept was (really just) get out there with some friends and shoot a wavy video. All the locations were places I’ve walked past a lot and thought ‘that would make a wavy video’. The concept is really just the reality of modern day London suburbia. In a way, the video depicts scenes of unrest beneath a civilised city.

Is it, consciously or not, a nod to the post-Brexit Britain and the sort of division we are seeing today?

Haha.

Yeah, that’s the world we’re living in, with new divisions all over the place, but music and art are bringing us closer together.

Many people are dreading post-Brexit Britain – but I really think it’s time to face the reality; be brave and lead by example. Treat others with respect and kindness and they will do the same.

I believe you are putting out a new piece every month. What was the idea behind this and can you reveal anything about the next song?

The idea is to stay prolific and motivated in this age of distractions. I’ve been inspired a lot by a few people I’ve met recently and it’s time to get the revs up. The next song is coming out pretty soon: it’s a dark Hip-Hop track featuring a very talented young rapper/poet from Surbiton.

Do you see all these songs going onto an album at some point?

I think a lot of these songs will go on to an album but some of them will end up as just singles or part of smaller E.P.s. I’m also producing and mixing a lot of stuff outside these monthly releases.

A lot of reviewers have seen traces of Portishead and Massive Attack in your work. Would it be fair to say they are influences? Who were the artists you grew up listening to?

I finally got the chance to see Portishead when they headlined Latitude festival and they totally blew my mind. Thom Yorke from Radiohead joined them on-stage to sing a duet of The Rip (with Beth Gibbons). It pretty much made my summer.

Massive Attack have always been masters of the art. Mezzanine was one of the albums that drew me into music productions in the first place. Other notable influences growing up include Wu Tang, DJ Shadow; Radiohead, anything off WARP; Mo Wax or Ninja Tunes; radio presenters like Mary Anne Hobbs and Eddy Temple Morris.

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You have been playing in bands and on your own since you were a teenager. What is the main difference being solo (compared with a band) and does it give you more freedom?

Bands are great fun but they’re a rollercoaster ride. I miss playing in bands and will no-doubt put a band together at some point around the Zaflon project.

I do, however, find that working autonomously give you the greatest level of artistic freedom and feel I am at my truest and most honest when doing it.

I know you’ve said, in regards collaborating with people, it is much more real working with people you chance along the way. What did you mean by this and have you any new collaborations in the pipeline?

I have friends who are signed to major publishing deals who always have artists thrown their way. I think it’s cool for people in the industry to cross-pollinate their talents but I think it’s cooler still to work with people you meet in your life, as you ramble through your own existence – whether that is someone who found you on SoundCloud (like Mina Fedora) or someone you met at an event (like Lefty). It’s just more real. These people haven’t been thrown into a room with me: they are people who I’ve genuinely crossed paths with and are genuinely talented. As for future collaborations, they’re coming thick and fast. London is pretty much a volcano of new talent.

I have asked about acts like Massive Attack. There seem to be fewer Trip-Hop/Electronic pioneers in modern music. Do you think there are fewer opportunities in the mainstream?

To be honest, I don’t really pay much mind to the mainstream. I work on music that makes me feel inspired and that changes all the time.

If I end up going mainstream, it will be because the music I make that happens to get popular – but I ain’t about to suck up to no trendsetters just to broaden the appeal of my music.

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It seems like, with newcomers like HEZEN coming through, there is a big demand for modern-cum-1990s Hip-Hop and Electronica. Why do you think there is this demand and what does this form of music offer that, say, mainstream Pop doesn’t?

Some people just need it deep and dark. It’s not always about the party, the rave and the woohoo. Music is a reflection of your soul and Pop just doesn’t touch a lot of people and never will.

If you had to select the three albums that have meant the most to you; which would they be and why?

At the Drive-InRelationship of Command

Guitar work, production; lyrics, energy; Ross Robinson on the desk; a feature by Iggy Pop… unreal This band almost single-handedly revived Rock’n’Roll for me. A cherished record

RadioheadOK Computer

This is where it all started. I got this album when I was fourteen and have been a super-fan ever since. Every single member of that band (and producer Nigel Godrich) are genius in their own right. This is the first album where I became aware of a Rock band forging a new sound technically and artistically – by working with a producer for four years. I know it was a painful one for them to make, but what an incredible piece of culture.

Earl SweatshirtDoris

‘Sweatshirt reached new levels of lyrical genius with his solo material. I always liked Odd Future, but ‘Sweatshirt really killed it with this album. After the first two months of downloading it, I literally hadn’t listened to anything else. Every time I listened, I would discover new layers of meaning and sophisticated tricks in his wordplay that I hadn’t noticed before.

Who are the new artists you recommend we investigate?

Royce Wood JuniorIan Woods (A.K.A. Psychologist)Nathalia Bruno (A.K.A. Drift)LeftyLGND.C.KaseShoxStarBenOfficial

Have you any advice for songwriters coming through at the moment?

Get on your grind, keep it real; keep it one-hundred. Always work on improving your craft. Don’t get down-heartened by lack of recognition at the early stages of your journey.

Enjoy the highs: don’t dwell on the lows. Put music into the world that you want to hear.

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

ShoXstar (ft. Kat E.S.T.) High Off Life

 

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Follow Zaflon

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Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/zaflonmusic/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/zaflon

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/zaflon

FEATURE: 1999

FEATURE:

 

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IN THIS PHOTO: Roots Manuva

 

1999

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OVER the course of several features…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Basement Jaxx

I am looking at years in music that produced some truly sensational albums. I have looked at 1994 and 1979: today, I am intrigued by the year 1999. Not just because it ended the best decade for music but gave such inspiration and kick the new millennium. This is all prompted by the endless affection I have for Basement Jaxx’s debut, Remedy. That album practically scored my final year at school. I remember happy (and miserable) memories of their standout hit, Red Alert. It seemed like an act reflecting what Dance music should be about: bringing the masses together, regardless of colour, race and religion. It was an all-embracing house of colour and togetherness. Not only did that one album – alongside 1999 contemporaries like Play – herald bold new territory for Dance music – it part of a year that showed so much variation and quality. In recognition of that, I look at the ten finest albums from the year (and a key track from each).

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BeckMidnite Vultures (November 23rd)

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The fourth album from Beck (studio album, anyway; seventh overall) was a full-on exploration of sounds and styles – so much of his finest work defined by that sense of adventure and daring. Whilst Midnite Vultures did not achieve the same recognition and critical acclaim as the breakthrough album, Odelay; it did gather impassioned reviews. A hedonistic, libido-satisfying thrill-ride that brims with cinematic crispness, fantastically eclectic album that threw everything from banjo hoedowns to electronic breakbeats into an album of terrific scope. Perhaps not quite as expansive and ambitious as Odelay; many felt it as a more immediate and accessible album. Whatever your viewpoint, it proved Beck was one of those artists capable of surprising audiences and remaining impressively consistent and strong. Later albums would tread more into subtle and emotive territory but here it was Beck playing the maverick, scattershot inventor that made albums like Midnite Vultures such a success.

EminemThe Slim Shady LP (23rd February)

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Eminem’s second studio album was the major-label debut from the influential rapper. Released by Interscope Records and Aftermath Entertainment (Dr. Dre’s label), there is production guidance from Dr. Dre, the Bass Brothers and Eminem. Perhaps the first introduction to Eminem’s Slim Shady alter ego; it brings in this foul-mouthed character bringing the listener into a strange, magic and often violent world. What makes the album so enduring is the broad lexicon and imagination from Eminem. The Slim Shady LP bursts with stunning lines and the utmost command. It is outrageous and candid but never sounds too crass or juvenile. Eminem, even then, showed he was capable of incredible wit, intelligence and vision. One of the reasons for doing this feature was to show how many forward-thinking, genre-changing albums came through in 1999. In a way, The Slim Shady LP changed Hip-Hop and brought new elements into it. The album is funny and rude but has so much charm and skill. Eminem showcases his mad-crazy delivery and language skills – sometimes the production does not do it true justice. Eighteen years down the line, it remains a stunning work from one of music’s true innovators.

TLC FanMail (23rd February)

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Quite a week for music back then: both Eminem and TLC releasing near-career-best records on the same day! For U.S. girl group TLC, it was a five-year gap between the legendary CrazySexyCool and FanMail. If the former boasted their finest hits – Creep and Waterfalls among them – there was no shortage of awesome material here. No Scrubs and Unpretty are, perhaps, the two songs we associate with the album. FanMail is street-bitch death-stare and heart-melting sweetness: the sister capable of bitch-slapping you to the sidewalk and picking you up and taking you for a coffee. It is a zen-seeking spirit of the Earth and a self-obsessed G: a kind-spirited, strong-willed album wrapped up in contradictions and contrasts. FanMail debuted atop the U.S. Billboard 200 and spent five non-consecutive weeks in that position. The success of songs like No Scrubs catapulted TLC to new heights and reached new listeners. I have seen so many new girl groups and singers inspired by that album and the sheer confidence that comes through. The girls are tight and harmonious throughout; the songs instant and nuanced whilst the production is crisp and clean – raw enough to let songs such as I’m Good at Being Bad shine. There were behind-the-scenes issues, delays and problems – making it a less-than-smooth transition – and a host of collaborators brought in – hope to reproduce the sound and success of CrazySexyCool. Whilst FanMail does not quite achieve this, it does provide one of the year’s finest albums and a reminder TLC were a force to be reckoned with.

Rage Against the MachineThe Battle of Los Angeles (November 2nd)

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It may seem like this rundown is a list of not-quite-as-epic follow-ups – Beck, TLC and now R.A.t.M. – but, really, it is a chance to step away from expectations and outline some fantastic records. Rage Against the Machine amazed with their eponymous debut: a furious and mesmeric album that remains one of Hard-Rock’s greatest achievements. Despite the expectations on The Battle of Los Angeles – Evil Empire was released in 1996 – this does not disappoint. Testify is an emphatic opener that shows the boys in crude health – taut, focused and relevant. In a year where many Nu-Metal bands were producing utter tripe; here there was an album that put the revolution right in the forefront. Tom Morello’s guitar genius was at its best whilst Zach de la Rocha sharpened his pen looked at the disaffection and anger bubbling beneath the city surfaces. If his lyrics did struggle when looking away from political vitriol, it is compensated by an incredible backing band. The group are in-tune and defiant throughout – creating blistering attacks and some of the most invigorating sonic assaults of the decade. If songs like Guerilla Radio and Calm Like a Bomb don’t get the body moving then you need your hearing checked.

Mos DefBlack on Both Sides (October 12th)

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If Hip-Hop was being given a new spit of shine by Eminem; Mos Def ensured he was not going to be overlooked. His stunning debut features live instrumentation and socially aware lyrics. The album went Gold the following year and put the U.S. rapper in the spotlight. Black on Both Sides blends classic bravado and confidence with new-found poetry – a terrific decades-fusion that sat sick and slick with something boisterous and bolshie. Mos Def shows his skills across the album and helped create one of the most impressive debuts of the 1990s. Whether tackling love and relations; sex and the physical; the world around him – he is always gripping and authoritative. Pollution, fear and fat ladies (never in a gross or sexist way) are all included in a biblical entrancing album of immense proportions.

Basement JaxxRemedy (10th May)

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The astonishing debut from Basement Jaxx is what motivated me to put pen to paper. Dance music in the U.K. before 1999 was often defined by a rigidity and predictability. Too commercial and close-minded to ever connect: step forward Brixton boys Basement Jaxx. Felix Buxton and Adam Radcliffe, as the album title suggests, was the antidote to the staid and placid Dance of that era. Remedy is that elixir that brings everywhere together through a kaleidoscope of colour and energy. Red Alert is that huge banger of the time: stridulating electronics and immense vocals; a chorus that lodges in the head and a composition that gets tight into the bloodstream. Critics at the time compared it to Kraftwerk’s debut and the effect that had on music. Surely, Remedy changed British music and showed it could be fun, free and unifying. It has instant and sharp songs like Rendez-Vu and Yo-Yo; smoother, less heavy moments such as Jazzalude and Don’t Give Up. It showed the duo were capable of taking the beats down and going into more chilled, romantic territory. That mix of sounds and ideas might, on paper, sound unfocused and too ambitious yet Basement Jaxx managed to pull it off in emphatic style.

Roots ManuvaBrand New Second Hand (22nd March)

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In a year where U.S. Rap was overtaking British equivalents; it was down to Roots Manuva to bring a sense of national pride to the genre. In fact, British Rap/Hip-Hop was a largely spent and null force in 1999. We had the occasional option – none spring to mind – but it was the Americans making the most intriguing and impactful music. Roots Manuva brought in dark production sounds with a distinguished style that uses Ragga to make its point – never leaning too heavily on it but placing it underneath songs that look at the world at large (Strange Behaviour) and religious upbringing (Baptism). The low and subtle beats and bass-heavy songs are delivered with a sense of London patois but never sounds too cliché and stereotyped. Among the geezers and chances employing those London vowels: Roots Maunva was a much more developed, broad and refined voice. The way he delivers his words seduced critics and resonated with listeners. Looking beyond predictable themes of sex and pimps: Roots Manuva uses his talents to talk about racial inequalities, society before him and subvert expectations – at a time when Rap and Hip-Hop was synonymous with sexualisation and needless bragging rights.

Missy ElliottDa Real World

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Back in the U.S. and Missy Elliott laid down her incredible second album, Da Real World. A tougher and grittier offering than her debut: the word ‘bitch’ is employed throughout the album and, in a way, the catch-word of the record. The confidence and leap forward that did suffer some setbacks. Lil’ Kim featured on the album: her career was on a downward trajectory after the death of her mentor, The Notorious B.I.G. Danja Mowf, Elliott’s protégée, was omitted from the album and replaced by Redman. Timbaland’s smart and futuristic—breakbeat production helps emphasise and polish songs that look at the battle of the sexes. For someone who says she does not rely on profanities to sell albums: there was quite a bit of it’s on Da Real World. She’s a Bitch and All n My Grill are classics from Elliott and proof she was one of the fiercest and most exceptional female artists of the time.

Blur13 (15th March)

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The sixth album from Blur was one of the final ones to feature the talents of guitarist Graham Coxon. It was quite a transitional time for the band. Stephen Street, their long-time producer, was jettisoned and replaced by William Orbit. Blur brought together their mix of Indie-Rock, Alternative and Rock together with Experimental, Electronic and Psychedelia – perhaps owing to Orbit’s influence. A darker and more introspective album than previous efforts; this is perhaps inspired by Damon Albarn and his break-up with long-term girlfriend Justine Frischmann. Some of the songs do not reach the heights the band was accustomed to – B.L.U.R.E.M.I. and Swamp Song, for example – but in Tender, Coffee + TV and No Distance Left to Run they created three of their finest numbers. Whether you consider it their greatest work or not; it is certainly a vital and impressive work. Coxon would not be long for the band and felt Blur were starting to head into dangerous musical territory – he wanted to keep the sound heard on their eponymous album. 13 is a more diverse creation but one that connects and inspires so many years down the tracks.

MobyPlay (17th May)

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If Basement Jaxx were reinfusing British Dance music: Moby was given new inspiration to U.S. Electronica. Moby, on his fifth album, wanted to return to his electronic roots – having stepped aside from that during 1996’s Animal Rights. Recording in his home studio over in Manhattan; Play spawned a string of hits and featured on many film and T.V. scores. Small wonder when you consider the incredible range of sounds, grooves and vocal samples on the record. If you had an album of vocal samples on their own they would not register: neither would a Moby album without them. It was that expert coming-together that turned Play into the biggest-selling Electronica album ever (selling over twelve-million copies worldwide). Play is a messy album but one strangely focused and attentive. It never loses its sense of quality and economy: every song gets into the head and provides something different. It is an extraordinary collection of music that took older, antiquated songs/samples and gave them fresh relevance. If the digital age is destroying the purity and authenticity of music: Play is a demonstration of how you can create something soulful, engaging and human (with electronics).

TRACK REVIEW: Lorne – Bread Alone

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Lorne

 

Image may contain: 1 person, indoor PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Dent

 

Bread Alone

 

 

9.2/10

 

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Bread Alone is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-7yWQpLRxs

GENRES:

Alternative; Soul

ORIGIN:

Berkshire/London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

16th February, 2017

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DESPITE the fact my featured artist has few original images…

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online, his music does a lot of talking. I will make a (late) resolution this year to feature fewer artists that have capitalised names – names that demand attention, apparently! Lorne/LORNE is not to blame because, to be fair, there is a lot to shout about when it comes to his songs. I shall come on to that later, but, for the moment, wanted to look at a few things. I will look back at London and singer-songwriters; piano and instruments that add to the atmosphere; Berkshire and areas outside the capital; comparisons to legendary songwriters – a little bit on biblical references in songs and complexities that can be explored through music. I shall start by looking at London and why it is such an attractive location for songwriters. Despite the fact Lorne (going to stick to the lower-case if that is okay?!) is originally from Berkshire; he is not based in London and inspired by the city. There is something endlessly fascinating about London and why it pulls musicians in. We all know about the downsides and struggles of the city: the cost of living and the sheer number of people; how competitive it can be and the struggles we all face there. It is a place I gravitate towards because of that music industry. You go from area-to-area and there is always a different vibe and neighbourhood. You could spend a day idling around Brick Lane and Spitalfields and you’d be compelled to put pen to paper. Sift through Knightsbridge and the polished, multi-million-pound properties and something else; to the summery vibes of Hyde Park and the reality and working-class elements of Woolwich. I bring this up because it seems Lorne is drawn to the people and sense of reality in London. I do worry the city is becoming too gentrified for the sake of profit and not offending the eye – becoming too middle-class and losing a certain authenticity and identity. I have just seen a survey/poll that ranks Peckham as the best place to live in London.

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These things are often subjective – the algorithms are a little strange at times – but that area of South London has grown from desolate and dangerous part of the city – the image of Del Boy and tower blocks spring to mind – to someone cleaner, safer and much more welcoming. It is an area of London that is gentrified and much more sanitised. Why this is good for some reasons, it does sort of turn London into Disneyland. We can’t really beautify and polish every area because it seems a bit unpredictable or dirty. The wrong sort of people is coming to London and wanting it all nice and inoffensive. I feel musicians, unlike residents, are magnetised to London for very different reasons. They are able to find the core and true identity of the city. They connect with all the people and diversity that makes the city what it was – and what it should be now. I’ll move onto my next point but am keen to preserve London and ensure it does not lose what makes it special and so interesting. It is musicians keeping that heritage and history alive. Lorne is someone who looks around the boroughs and corners of London: he connects with the streets, the cafes and the conversations and pours this onto the page. London is continuing to grow and develop by the day. New people are coming in and there is always something to do. I can understand why so many musicians come here. There are opportunities and places to play; fantastic sights and areas to compel the mind; a real pride among the citizens. Among the most cosmopolitan and multi-diverse areas of the U.K., it is a wonderful city to reside in. Sure, there is costs and gentrification but there are still parts of London that remain loyal to the roots. Musicians are arriving in the capital and creating some exceptional music. That community and competition are seeing London-based music evolve and blossom. Years ago, I was a little wary and felt too many new acts lacked that necessary spark. Now, it seems like originality and variegation are back. The new bands are sticking in the mind and there is a huge rise in quality solo artists – duos are increasing and among the best in the world. Lorne brings his talents to London and feeds from the stories and sounds of the city.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Dent

Before I do progress, it is worth mentioning counties like Berkshire that a lot of musicians are moving from. I know quite a few artists around Reading and surrounding areas that connect with the local scene but appreciate that proximity to London. Past review subjects like Signal – a young Hip-Hop star – has been championed by local radio but definitely feels there is a bigger audience in London. True, Reading has some great venues and a lot of musicians there but there is a limited. One of the great things, from the viewpoint of Lorne, is he’s nice and close to London. You can hop a train or embark on a short drive. It would be nice to think funding can be given to areas outside London to ensure musicians remain but the truth is the larger cities provide chances and finance towns don’t. Berkshire is one of those counties where you have one or two big cities but the remainder of the county is quite sparse. I feel one of the reasons artists move from home and set up stall in London is because of the press. The local press is, by and large, quite an amateurish affair. Newspapers and radio stations are largely unspectacular – bar one or two here and there – and there is a certain risibility to them. No matter how passionate the journalists and D.J.s are, the listenership is going to be quite constricted. London is a different affair. I hear acts being heard by BBC Radio 1 and 2; ‘6 Music is the most reputable and fashionable station – the local radio stations can be quite influential. The same can be said of Manchester and, say, Glasgow: some big stations and media outlets can help bring a band/artist to the consciousness. My point relates to Lorne in the sense he has come to London to ensure his music gets proper focus and exposure.

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Whilst it is laudable so many musicians are coming to London one wonders whether there is enough space and spaces to accommodate the fleet. The live circuit is just about hanging on and sustainable; living costs are high so it means artists are tightening their budgets in other areas – regular gigs ensure they are able to merely survive let alone make a profit. Whilst I am a little late to the party of Bread Alone – scheduling and being busy has meant this is the first time I can get to it – it is a song that deserves, and has gained, radio-play and some great reviews. One of the great things about London, as opposed to the other places, is the sheer volume of the press – from Internet blogs to local rags. There is always someone willing to write a few column-inches and spin your music. Lorne is jumping into a city that is bursting at the seams but worry not: his music is certainly in the top percentile. There are so many underrated and fantastic artists (like him) who will gain proper respect down the line. One of the things that grips me about him is how he has adapted to the city. Hailing from Berkshire, he is practically on London’s doorstep but has not just come to London and adapted his music to marketing tastes and demands of the charts. He knows what the people want and how to succeed. Writing deep, evocative and interesting songs is just what the capital, and music, demands. I am getting tired of the lazy and inauthentic songwriters who are parroting what’s currently polluting the charts. True, you are guaranteed market share and a certain amount of people but it is a cheap and easy way of doing things. Those musicians who provide something personal and unexpected deserve a lot more acclaim than they get.

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I was excited to look at Lorne because he subverts expectations about male singer-songwriters. I have been on my high-horse about the solo genre and how women are outdoing the men. The reason I came to this conclusion (other than the fact it is true) is because of originality and strength. I find too many male solo artists are samey and blending into one another. Perhaps too single-minded in regards chart success or marketability; I am always more indebted to the girls of music and how they push boundaries. Between them, all around the world, one finds more excitement, colour and prospect. It may seem like a generalisation but it is especially true of London artists. Lorne is a musician who makes me feel the boys are on the resurgence. He is not someone who wants to be the next Ed Sheeran or whoever – there are plenty contended to pick up an acoustic guitar and strum about any old shite. His music is among the richest and sophisticated I have encountered in a long time. Piano-heavy songs like Bread Alone are quite hard to pull off. Many new artists will throw electronics and elements into the blender in an attempt to drown with sound. Assuming noise and sonic activity will create something interesting and universal – a faulty syllogism if ever I saw one – creating something subtler is a lot trickier. Lorne is someone who takes instruments like strings and piano and adds and elegance and atmosphere to his songs. At times romantic and graceful; more bracing and forceful the next – somebody who can create extraordinary templates with very little volume and accentuation. He is inspired by songwriters such as Kate Bush, Elbow and Radiohead so it is no surprise those kind of acts feed into his work. If you take an album from each of them – Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love; Elbow’s The Seldom Seen Kid and Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool – one experiences a wealth of music and so many different emotions. From Bush’s Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God) to Elbow’s Starlings; through to Radiohead’s Daydreaming – a cornucopia of brilliance, orchestration and emotion. I can hear timbres of Kate Bush, in terms of musicality, and some of Elbow’s most swooning and cinematic moments; coupled with Radiohead’s finer tracks.

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What Lorne does is take little bits from his idols and blends it with his own upbringing and mindset. That fusion and compositional sound make tracks like Bread Alone such a wonderful thing. I am doing it a disservice but feel it is becoming rare finding musicians who take the time to create wonderful, soul-nourishing compositions. I’ll come back to that later – along with some other points – but wanted to look at Lorne in the context of the songwriters he has been compared with. It may be a while since we have heard from Damien Rice (where did HE go to?!) but there have been many commentators making that link. More impressively, Ben Howard has been mentioned as a possible comparable – a modern songwriter who is underrated but hugely influential. Even heroes like Peter Gabriel have been tied to Lorne. Those sort of comparisons is not rash and misinformed. One hears shades of each in terms of quality and that tremulousness. In my mind, Lorne is quite similar to Peter Gabriel and his early-career work. Lorne’s E.P., Maze, is out very soon and will provide an opportunity for the music world to discover someone rare and familiar. One hears his music and is transported into a safe world that makes you think. Songs like Bread Alone, I shall come to soon, are intelligent and philosophical but provide a warm blanket one can wrap around themselves. You get that quality and conviction usually reserved to the legends of songs. More interestingly, one hears that hard-to-nail blend of rousing and minimal. There is a spirited and passionate performance but the composition never gets in your grill. Instead, it has the majesty and dignity to work expeditiously and create necessary shivers. As I said, that is a hard blend to get together and make work. I am impressed by Lorne’s musicianship and how he can effectively match contrasts without sounding undisciplined and scattershot. Bread Alone is a perfect example of shimmering, sometimes epic compositional notes with powerful lyrics messages.

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I shall get down to investigating Lorne’s current track in a minute but, for the moment, wanted to look at rare inspirations behind songs. Bread Alone has a biblical tie but has its heart in the everyday. It is easy to see Bread Alone as a reflection of its title: just living and existing for sustenance and foodstuff. It seems we all need a higher purpose and something more fulfilling than the average work day. So many songs are obsessed with the heart (or the genitalia) so it is a rarity finding a songwriter who addresses something more inspiring. That is a word I am bringing in quite a bit. Yes, you can find modern musicians who inspire the mind but it is becoming more difficult to find. I always prefer songs that sidestep the obvious and document shared experiences. I will dissect Bread Alone soon but am fascinated by that central idea: there is something more important we need to find to make us whole. Whether it is love, music or a warm seat on the bus: it doesn’t have to be anything big. We all, myself included, get caught in the suffocation of a mundane nine-to-five existence: we return home and sit; rarely engaging with anyone else or doing anything that makes us feel better. We are told life is short so it seems necessary to take advantage of that window and embrace something big. It is an idea we can all get behind and approve on. With singers like James Blake providing minimal-evocative gem; it is a great time for Lorne to enter music. Blake’s music is celebrated because of its incredible sound combinations and evocativeness; the way he writes about the world around him and has that original lyrical palette.

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When Maze does arrive, I am sure it will be met with great interest. Lorne is one of those songwriters who cannot just write about what everyone else is saying. Living somewhere like London, there is a certain sense of being trapped and part of that rat-race. Bread Alone is inspired by that biblical passage that says man shall not live by bread alone: the song takes that and applies it to a modern-day setting. Not necessarily suggesting spiritual plains and salvation: there is that need to take from life something that makes you a better, more rounded human. It is a complex issue that means different things to different people. Looking at loss and seizing the day; it is encouraging seeing an artist, with his debut single no less, coming in that strong. I have reviewed many artists (of lesser quality) who have had their music celebrated by national radio. I know stations and D.J.s are turning onto the song and showing some interest in Lorne. I know that will expand and augment as the E.P. arrives and takes hold. We should always nurture and encourage those musicians that make you think. I’ll finish this section by speaking a bit about the challenges for new musicians and expending some patience. I mentioned earlier how it is a very busy market and competitive at the moment. Every week, there are countless songwriters entering music from different directions. Those genuinely good and promising – perhaps subjective but the point stands – do often have to wait a little to get success. There is a battle between commercial artists and those who favour quality over quick returns. Lorne is one of those musicians who pride quality and nuance over profitability and the charts. Many artists are being deterred and leaving music because it takes so long to get just dues and respect. I would urge Lorne to stay strong and keep making music. There are a lot of great artists out there but that does not mean he will have to wait THAT long before he finds success. London is the perfect city to play and, I am sure, international recognition will come soon enough.

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Lorne has performed cover versions in the past and is adept at handling other people’s songs. The personality and perspective he brings to these tracks have given him the confidence to press on with his own music. You can hear that confidence right from the opening notes of Bread Alone. I know the track has been out a little while now but it is one that has been taken to heart by many people. The opening piano notes are tender and reflective in equal measures. It is quite a spirited start that gets the listener braced and ready. The notes fly and trip as one imagines moonlight and the unexpectedness of the night: what it can offer and what goes on when the curtains are drawn. Not that the piano is ever edgy or dark: it has a rush and excitement that wills the imagination to project and run. When Lorne does come to the microphone, he talks about leaving town and getting away. The hero has to depart and go somewhere new. I started this piece but looking at the depth some songwriters expend; how songs look beyond issues of love and reflect that desire to seek something bigger. It seems, to Lorne, there is a need to start again and shake off something unfamiliar and worn. The faces, in his town, do not look the same; they are not what they were and causing this movement. Backed by that loyal and hard-hitting piano, Lorne’s voice is deep and powerful. I get shades of everyone from Hossier to Depeche Mode in the timbre and sound of that voice but it sounds like it stems from a man putting all his emotion and soul on the line – a gripping and captivating sound that stops you and forces one to listen. I am not sure how much is culled from real-life, yet Lorne seems to be reflecting on a time that was quite strange and disruptive for him. Maybe he is referring to his hometown: someone he thought familiar and safe but has changed beyond recognition.

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The voices are not the same and it appears everything has moved on. I am unsure whether a romantic attachment is in mind but there seems to be that suggestion lingering. Maybe someone he was very close to has taken a different course in life and that has caused upset and confusion. Lorne’s voice is always powerful and immediate but has that ability to reveal sentiments and secrets the more you hear the song. It is rare finding a voice as appealing and varied in modern music. That simple piano backing gives Bread Alone a sombre quality but a sense of hope and beauty. You feel attached to the song and root for the hero. At this stage in the song, it is not clear whether he has actually abandoned town or whether he is contemplating it. It is interesting dissecting the words and seeing the meaning behind them. As the chorus comes in, things start to reveal themselves; the song becomes clearer and you understand where Lorne is coming from. He cannot leave on bread alone and has had to make this decision. Perhaps, in musical terms, it is a documentation of his movement from Berkshire to London: having to go to the big city to get those opportunities and musical chances. Maybe it is just a point in life where getting by was not an option. We have all been in that situation where we’ve had to sublimate and go from somewhere we were settled into a bigger, better place. Lorne takes things in his stride but one hears a sense of sadness in the tones. Maybe that is just the effect of the time: not sure what the future holds but determined to tackle it. A sense of relief comes into the voice as the decision has been made. It is now the time to strike and take a big leap; get up and make those changes. It is an inspiring message for many out there who will be in the same position. It is easy, once you do it, acclimatising to a new way of life: making that choice and forcing yourself to do it in the first place is the hardest thing.

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The more the song goes on, the more you bond to the hero and his plight. Lorne has watched moons “wax and wane” and squandered the moments. He has hesitated before and not really taken risks. That moment threatened to pass (and Lorne) was well aware of the preciousness of time. Again, I think about music and whether there is a nod to that transition period – leaving home and going to London to make music. It is a theme that will reflect with many musicians and has quite a traditional, classical heart. That idea of making the big-city move is one steeped in cinematic legend and literary heroes – all seeking a better life and a chance for improvement. In a wider, less personal sense, the messages through Bread Alone can be extrapolated by all. You feel anyone who needs to make a chance will pick up on the lyrics and their meanings. I guess, when things get to a certain point, it seems there is no option but many of us get too comfortable in our ruts – doing that can lead to missed opportunity and a life of regret. Lorne knows this and has taken the decision to become proactive. The underlying message in the song is not messing things up. The hero has to take this moment but cannot afford to be back where he is (on worse). It is a sentiment delivered with as much vulnerability and emotion as I have heard in a long time. As a whole, Bread Alone marks a big move for Lorne. He is writing from his own perspective – rather than covering songs – and proves he is fully-formed and stunning right from the off. I would love to see this determination carry on. Maze is his E.P. and will show he is one of the keenest talents in new music. That tremulous voice and exceptional musical command stand him in good stead – there are few quite as strong as him out there right now.

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I’ll return to my original points in a bit but am looking ahead at Lorne’s year. Bread Alone has been out there for a little bit so will already be in the minds of many. With the consumer having a pretty short attention span, they are always looking for a new fix and something new – I blame the rise of social media and lack of human contact. People are hunting for fresh music so Lorne will be keen to get the E.P. out. When Maze comes, it will further his cause as one of the more interesting songwriters in the country. I am quite lucky I get to see some great musicians come through before they get to the mainstream. The male songwriter market is very full but, in terms of quality, there are few that genuinely shine. Lorne shows all the promise and heart of someone who wants to remain in music. More music will certainly keep Lorne in the mindset and make him accessible to new fans and labels/radio etc. It is the festival season and so many different acts are polishing amps and stringing guitars – it is all about to begin. Lorne, owing to his style of music, might not be looking at the big stages just yet but has that in mind I am sure. He is a brilliant and original songwriter that deserves wider acclaim. I would like to see more work from him and keeping busy. I say this about so many artists but it’d be good to see more in the way of social media output – photos especially and some more updates. I know he is keen to promote his work but more work on visuals and pictures would be nice. He is an accessible artist who has plenty of ambition and a lot of talent. In the coming months, he will be promoting his work and performing but you wonder how the future will work out. I feel he will be one of those acts who sort of bubble in the underground and comes to the mainstream a little way down the line – like all the best and most promising musicians.

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I shall cap this all off by looking at the original points I made: themes about piano, instruments and atmosphere; London and the draw for singer-songwriters; comparisons to legendary songwriters and a bit about deep and meaningful song subjects. London, despite its recent troubles and turbulence, is one of the most invigorating, busy and exciting cities in the world. It continues to pull in musicians around the world and excite new generations. It is no surprise considering the depths and avenues one can explore. In terms of music venues, there are more here than any other city in the U.K. It is a natural hub for musicians and whilst cities like Glasgow and Manchester are hugely important: few are quite as majestic and legendary as London. It is exciting and busy but offers tranquillity and peace – of you know where to find it! For me, it is a calling that appeals to the musical and imaginative side of my brain. There is so much to do and such a mixed population. You cannot be bored and always find some great music, somewhere. For Lorne, that all appeals to him and has reflected in his music. He is one of those artists looking to soak up the streets and word of the people: connect with humans around him and provide something meaningful. London is a perfect place to do that and one that will attract Lorne-like musicians down the ages. Coming from Berkshire, a great place for new talent, he has that local backing and acclaim. Most counties away from Greater London can be limited in regards opportunities. Sure, you get some great venues and artists but it can be rather crowded. Many musicians struggle to get heard and the crowds are a little patchy. You go to a city and you will always find people to hear your music: radio stations everywhere and so many great spots to perform.

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As I said earlier, I have reviewed Berkshire musicians and they are always full of appreciation for the people there. Cities like Reading are up-and-coming and keeping natives firmly placed. That proximity to London is attractive so you find Berkshire musicians enjoying the best of both worlds. I can see the attraction of living and performing in London. You have that world on the doorstep and a first-hand taste of the nation’s best artists. Berkshire is a fertile and productive county but it is that accessibility to London that is seeing many of its musicians coming down here. Lorne has gained support from Berkshire stations etc. but is keen to expand and see his music picked up by the large and music-loving community of the capital. Bread Alone is a song filled with beauty, emotion and complexities. There are a simplicity and nakedness in the song which makes it thoroughly intriguing and nuanced. The piano stands out with its tenderness and innovation: it climbs and runs; soothes and implores at various interludes. The composition has an elegance and refinement but proper power and impetus. I hear a lot of songs that throw so many different elements in without a sense of purpose or musicality. It is a lot harder taking things down and make an effective composition that is minimal and bare. That is what has happened here. You immerse yourself in the composition and all the details. Nailing a composition and making it interesting (but not too forceful) is a hard trick to pull off. When I hear an interesting or beautiful composition – the intention of the artist – they can seem a little lacking and one-dimensional. Often, there is not enough fascination or depth – seeming a little insincere and simplistic. Lorne is a musician who knows how to resonate and connect through music.

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I’ll leave this be in a moment but will finish about comparisons with legendary singers and how original lyrics can go a long way. Bread Alone, and that biblical connection looks at getting more from life: whether it is love or a pursuit; going beyond the dull and soulless rigour of the working day. It is a consideration we all need to take on board and something we can all benefit from. I am hearing more and more songwriters connect with the wider world and create songs that go beyond sex and pillow-talk. We need the continuation of the love song but that seems to be all new artists speak of. It can be rather predictable and selfish: what is wrong with writing something with a bit more intelligence and soul? Lorne raises questions and compels the listener look at their life – whether they are doing all they can and filling their days with potential. It means Bread Alone connects for many different reasons. You have that insightful and important message with the lustrous, emotive composition – there is that voice, of course. I have seen Lorne compared with songwriters Ben Howard and Peter Gabriel – the latter is a particular hero of his. That is no mean feat and one fully deserved. There are loads of new male songwriters; many have unfair attention and get compared with some genuinely wonderful artists. I feel critics and the media are too quick elevating musicians to these heights: it can give a false sense of potential that negatively impacts on their music. Lorne is someone taking it calmly but gathering some honest and obvious comparisons. He has that songwriting talent and ability to transcend ages, boundaries and genres. Bread Alone strikes on all front and marks him for big things. Maze is the latest E.P. and one that will take Lorne new places. The London-based artist is just starting his career but showing he has the potential and legs to continue for years to come. Bread Alone might seem like a solitary and lonesome title. When it comes to the meat and bones of the track, it is…

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VERY much for everyone.

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Follow Lorne

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FEATURE: Record Store Day at Ten: The Great Vinyl Debate

FEATURE:

 

Record Store Day at Ten:

 

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The Great Vinyl Debate

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ON 22nd April, Record Store Day will celebrate…

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its ten anniversary. I am always keen to celebrate important birthdays: they do not come much more impressive and celebration-needed than Record Store Day. There are about five-hundred different released planned for this year’s Record Store Day. Paul McCartney is reissuing his album, Flowers in the Dirt – it will be a chance for new generations to connect with a fantastic record. The 1989-album spawned tracks like My Brave Face and Figure of Eight – not one of the critics’ favourite but a great record from that period. Available, exclusively from independent record stores, will be releases from Real Estate (In My Mind) and The Jesus and Mary Chain (Damage and Joy). English Tapas (Sleaford Mods) and Soundgarden’s Ultramega OK will line up against Minus the Bear’s Voids. A couple of those albums have already come out but some are forthcoming. Some unreleased demos from The Smiths will arrive; some David Bowie L.P. sets and live albums from Bruce Springsteen, Iggy Pop and Grateful Dead. St. Vincent is the ambassador for this year’s Record Store Day and will bring some exclusive releases from Fleetwood Mac, Chemical Brothers and Ramones – Air, Neil Young and Pearl Jam, too. Throw in Cocteau Twins, Sex Pistols and U2 (plus many more) and you have a bumper selection. Each record store will have their own selection and celebrate the day in their own way – quizzes, events and live performances will be occurring across the country. Slaves, Anton Newcombe and Kate Tempest will help champion the tenth anniversary of a wonderful event.

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Not only did I want to help celebrate the (forthcoming) tenth anniversary of Record Store Day but look back at vinyl and its importance in the modern era. The great thing about Record Store Day is how the smaller independent stores get a chance to shine. It is not a day for iTunes, mega labels and faceless corporations: the loyal and honest record stores have their moment in the spotlight. Modern music is as much about digitalisation and electronics as it is choice, variation and opportunity. Yes, there are some proper record shops and we can buy vinyl – it is a dying breed and seems music is evolving in the wrong direction. Whilst technology is making the process of making and sharing music easier – something that is a huge breakthrough – it seems to be taking the soul and physicality for music. A few weeks back, I wrote a piece about album covers and how they are less important in the current era – as most albums are on music-sharing sites and the humble C.D. seems to be taking a backseat. Even acts that release to C.D. are not really expending too much thought on the visual side of thing. You can dig out my piece if you wish but it is important to underline just how relevant and necessary Record Store Day. In a way, giving local stores and vinyl a single day a year seems to be doing it a disservice – why not have monthly events happening? I guess it would be too costly and time-consuming but I am glad we have a single day as it is. I am looking forward to the day and the rare releases we’ll see. We’ll see some unreleased live material and legendary artists putting out classic albums. It is a chance for music fans around the country to come together and scratch their musical itches – indulge that nerdy and wonderful part of the soul that goes unnoticed the remainder of the year. I know Record Store Day is not entirely vinyl-based – it does include non-vinyl releases – but it seems odd the format is being phased-out.

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Technology is moving forward and helping musicians create music quicker and cheaper. iPads and other devices make composition and creation easier and more accessible than ever. You can put tracks on sites like SoundCloud and Spotify to get them out to the masses quickly and clearly. It is 2017, so there needs to be modern and slick ways of sharing music. I get that but can see no reason why new generations cannot mix electronic formats with vinyl and traditional values. It seems a lot of people my age (in their 30s) are keeping the flame alive but younger people are buying vinyl as an artistic purchase. They put the record on walls and shelves and admire it for its aesthetic values and sense of history – something quite old and odd in an ultra-modern society. It is good vinyl, in an odd way, is being admired but that is not the point: a record should be played. It is no good mounting something onto the bedroom wall and not having that vinyl under a needle, doing its thing. That would be like buying an instrument and never playing it! I feel certain people are buying vinyl as an investment or art rather than appreciating what it represents and how important it is. Record Store Day is not designed to appeal to those sorts: it is for the proper music lovers who admire records and days when music was as much about feel, soul and the experience – now it is about quick turnaround and social media. It may sound like I am a relic lusting after a long-gone time: I am merely voicing the opinions and sentiments of millions. The tenth anniversary of Record Store Day is a big birthday that will see more rare releases and cool vinyl come out than any other year. We have ambassadors and champions: big musicians throwing their weight behind the event and help push it out far and wide. That is important and will reflect on younger people – seeing their favourite artists celebrate record stores and vinyl records.

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I know vinyl will not make this big comeback and vanquish digital music – that would be a cool concept for a music video! – but we cannot lose that link to music’s beginning. One of the biggest pleasures is buying a great vinyl record and taking it home to play. The best listening experience of my life was getting Graceland bought for me for my birthday. I was alone in the house and put the record on: lay on my back with eyes closed and let the music take over – under the watchful gaze of a small chicken (the family pet at the time!). It was a glorious and enriching occasion that I could not have got if I were listening to a C.D. or Internet stream. If we are to appreciate the full glory, potential and nuance of sound then the vinyl must remain and continue to inspire. I know so many music fans but few who actively purchase vinyl and prefer that method of listening. One of the biggest problems is the price of new vinyl. If you are buying a newly-released album, it can often cost over twenty quid at HMV. It is ridiculous you have to part with that much money for a ten-track album that you can get for half that on iTunes. I guess the cost of producing vinyl means those mark-ups are justified. Many people do not have that much money to impart on an album – they will always go for the quicker and cheaper alternative. It is worth spending that amount of cash on a classic album or double-vinyl release – the price discrepancy is not as large as it should be. If we are to encourage vinyl-buying and make it more prolific then the costing has to come under control. I would happily pay twenty-plus pounds for a good vinyl copy of Rubber Soul – I could get a lot of enjoyment and appreciate the years of pleasure that one record will provide. I would be keen to buy a record like Sleaford Mods’ English Tapas but would not pay that much for it. How many years of wonderment will that album produce?! Will it really be worth that amount of money?! I doubt it and worry most people are going to off-put by the high vinyl costs.

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The good thing about Record Store Day is it puts the focus on the smaller independent shops where the prices are going to be more reasonable. Not only do the independent shops provide the latest releases but are stoked with second-hand records from all genres and years. In record shops local to me, I have seen albums like Abbey Road go for as low as a fiver – hardly any scratches or damage at all on the record. That is a bargain for a vinyl that shows its durability. Many of these records were pressed around the time of original release and have survived a battering on many record players. Digital music is necessary and wonderful but does not have the same feel and physicality as a record. Society wants things quickly – myself included – which have mean certain recording forms are being side-lined. I am pleased many people do choose to preserve vinyl music in its true form. So many are buying records for their looks and not what is in their soul. As time goes on, I worry the record will die a death and be something reserved to closets and attics. That is why Record Store Day is celebrated. It is not a publicity stunt or pandering celebration: it is a loveable and affectionate proffering of records and local record stores. I hope days like that will prick the ears of young music listeners and encourage them to go to their local record shop. Maybe a day will arrive when there are no music shops so we need to do what we can to delay that process. Make sure you participate on 22nd April and enjoy all the variegated, cool and one-off treats on offer. Get onto Record Store Day’s official website (http://recordstoreday.co.uk/home/) and keep abreast of all the developments and events. Once the celebration has ended, do not wait for next year and the next birthday. Get out there and buy your favourite records in their original, true form. Being among other music aficionados and rubbing shoulders with the music-buying public is a discipline that should not be forgotten: in the digital age, human connection is being lost. Go experience records and vinyl as much as you can. It is, in mine and many other people’s opinions, what music…

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IS all about.

 

FEATURE: The March Playlist: Vol. 4: Gorillaz, Amazons and London Grammar (with a Berry on Top)

FEATURE:

 

The March Playlist

 

 

Vol. 4: Gorillaz, Amazons and London Grammar (with a Berry on Top)

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THAT header is not me trying to be clever…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Kendrick Lamar

but a way of showing the diversity and contrast in music. The legendary Chuck Berry has just died but he has left the world his final album, Chuck. I include a track from that plus some new gems from The Amazons and Kendrick Lamar. On top of all of that, Gorillaz have announced their forthcoming album, Humanz, will soon be with us. It is another great week for music but one that seems to be that extra-bit wonderful. Some fantastic tracks are flying around right now. Record Store Day is about a month away and, in the run-up, Paul McCartney has re-released his 1989 album, Flowers in the Dirt. I include a single cut from that and look forward to more Record Store Day releases. You can never accuse music of being boring: this selection of songs proves just that!

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GorillazSaturnz Barz (Spirit House)

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The AmazonsBlack Magic

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James BlakeMy Willing Heart

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London Grammar – Truth Is a Beautiful Thing

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Run the Jewels Legend Has It

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Chuck BerryBig Boys

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Paul McCartney – My Brave Face

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The Jesus and Mary Chain – The Two of Us

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Tei ShiHow Far

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Kendrick Lamar – The Heart Part 4

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She Drew the GunNo Hole in My Head

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The MoonlandingzThe Strangle of Anna

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David Guetta (ft. Nicki Minaj & Lil Wayne)Light My Body Up

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Cassels The Weight

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EAT FAST Scrambled Egg

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Blaenavon Alice Come Home

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LVL UP Blur

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BlossomCold Blue Rain

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Jennifer Ann Mad World

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PHOTO CREDIT: Stella Malfilâtre

Nilüfer Yanya – The Florist

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Carl LouisHuman Being

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AlmaChasing Highs

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PHOTO CREDIT: Hollie Fernando

Dream Wife – Somebody

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Ariana & the RoseHow Does That Make You Feel

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Molina – Salvation

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Cigarettes After Sex Apocolypse

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All Time LowLast Young Renegade

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Perfume Genius Slip Away

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Maxïmo Park Get High (No, I Don’t)

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Charli XCX (feat. MØ) – 3 A.M Pull Up

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Only Girl Fortune

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Glades Dangerous

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Smino – Netflix and Dusse

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PHOTO CREDIT: Joshua Halling Photography

Lewis Watson when the water meets the mountains

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Said the Whale – Miscarriage

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Girlpool – 123

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MoonchildCure

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Sarah Whatmore – Full Circle

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Massari So Long

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Tom Jay WilliamsClosure

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Jesse ElvisPaint the Picture

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Tom Grennan – Giving It All

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Sheryl Crow – Long Way Back

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Phlake Chunks

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PHOTO CREDIT: Ebru Yildiz

PWR BTTM – Answer My Text

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PHOTO CREDIT: Mike Lerner

Victoria Celestine – Carrying On

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Vallis Alps – East

 

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The War on Drugs – Eyes to the Wind

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Drake and Sampha 422

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MIST Hot Property

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WENS Bleed

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Fionn Regan Cormorant Bird

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Kelly Lee OwensKeep Walking

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SportsmanRunning on a Beach

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Slick DonHighs and Lows

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Anna Pancaldi Stay Right Here

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Rationale Deliverance

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Felix Cartal – Get What You Give

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Declan J. Donovan Fallen So Young

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PHOTO CREDIT: Devin Pedde

Gavrielle – Flannel

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Hearts & Colors For the Love

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Virginia to Vegas Selfish

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Goldfrapp – Moon in Your Mouth

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PHOTO CREDIT: Clint Frift

Rex Orange CountySunflower

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Kara MarniNo Ordinary Love

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Alex G – Bobby

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TorsMerry Go Round

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Iggy Azalea – Mo Bounce

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Jess & Matt – Bones (Acoustic Mix)

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Bad NervesDreaming

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Blondie – Long Time

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Krrum – Moon

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Kyla La Grange – Love Harder

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PHOTO CREDIT: Anna Maria Lopez

Sundara Karma – Happy Family

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Life of Dillon (ft. L. Marshall) – Focus

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Bakermat – Baby

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Band of Horses – In a Drawer

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The Pretty Reckless – Oh My God

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PHOTO CREDIT: Matsu Photography

Tired Lion – I Don’t Think You Like Me

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Vaults – Hurricane

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Jacob Banks – Unholy War

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Spinning Coin – Raining On Hope Street

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SAINT WKND (ft. Hoodlem) – Golden

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Jimmy Eat World – You Are Free

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Stevie Parker – Without You

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Galantis – Rich Boy

 

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Bess Atwell – Candid

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Frances (ft. Ritual) – When It Comes to Us

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Real Estate – Holding Pattern

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PHOTO CREDIT: Shervin Lainez

Becca Stevens – 45 Bucks

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Betty Who – Human Touch

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Boss Hog – Signal

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Brothers Firetribe – Shock

 

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PHOTO CREDIT: Mathew Schwartz / penandcamera.com

Desperate Journalist – Purple

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Eclipse – The Downfall of Eden

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Formation – Gods

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Paulbearer – Cruel Road

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Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors – California

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Mike WiLL Made-It (ft. Lil Yachty) – Hasselhoff

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Soulwax – Masterplanned

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Spiral Stairs – The Unconditional

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Wolf Eyes – Texas

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PHOTO CREDIT: Sarah Ød

She-DevilsHey Boy

 

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IN THIS PHOTO: Gorillaz

I knew March would really start to hot up! If the weather is not quite there yet: it is clear music is stepping up and bringing the vibes. A Playlist with Kendrick Lamar and London Grammar would be good on its own. Throw in Chuck Berry, The Amazons and Gorillaz and you have something truly epic. The days are ticking on and I cannot wait to see what else music has to offer. With some big albums announced; it is likely some awesome tracks will be arriving pretty soon. I will keep on top of it and put them all into the next instalment of The March Playlist.

TRACK REVIEW: Erin Pellnat – Dream in Color

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Erin Pellnat

 

  

Dream in Color

 

 

9.6/10

 

 

Dream in Color is available at:

https://erinpellnat.bandcamp.com/track/dream-in-color

GENRES:

Indie-Folk; Acoustic; Rock

ORIGIN:

Brooklyn, U.S.A.

RELEASE DATE:

5th December, 2016

The E.P., Dream in Color, is available at:

https://erinpellnat.bandcamp.com/releases

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THIS review looks at an area of the world I have…

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a lot of fondness for. I wanted to look at Brooklyn and the type of music coming out of there. I will look at genres and unexpected sounds; female artists and the chores of starting a career; solo artists and that D.I.Y. approach – songs that explore beauty and original themes. I shall start with Brooklyn and a part of the world I have not been to for a long time now. I can’t remember the last time I looked at the borough but I am fascinated by New York music. There is something about the way they do things: it is such an intriguing and fascinating city to look at. Of course, there are those five boroughs but they are all very different. My first exposure to the area came from Beastie Boys. Aside from name-checking the borough in many of their hits; they seemed to have taken the street-sounds and flavour of the borough in all their music. I know they moved to California at some point and sort of detached from New York a bit. I have spent a lot of time looking at Californian artists and sort of neglected New York. It is a funny thing having a blog: you tend to get requests from people who are associated with other acts – for that reason, because I have not been in New York a while, it has been (mainly) L.A. artists. That is not to say I am ungrateful: Los Angeles is one of the finest areas of music in the world. That said, you cannot deny the legacy and brilliance of New York. Even if you split it into boroughs, there are certain parts that provoke great music. Manhattan is perhaps the best and most productive area for music. The way I see it; Manhattan is that centre and tourist Mecca. It has all that mix of styles and artists there. I feel it is broader than other boroughs of New York and gets a lot of the attention.

It is understandable many people flock there for great new music as it seems to be the place for great New York music. That said; there is a lot of pressure on the borough to perform and continue. I can rattle off the bands and artists that are making Manhattan burst and fizz but it is Brooklyn on my mind. I mentioned Beastie Boys are Brooklyn brothers that had that affinity to the borough. I always associate Brooklyn with raw and edgier music – it has that reputation for some grittier and innovative music. We often associate Brooklyn with Hip-Hop, Rap and music that has a bit more attitude and punch. Maybe that is parallel to the perception we have of the area: it is a little more ‘real’, Urban and dangerous, perhaps. Don’t get me wrong on that, at all. I only mean there is a perception of Brooklyn I think is a little unfair. New York is a state complex and divided: there is a unity between its people but the boroughs are all very different. I have reviewed artists from Queens that have that flair, flavour and pop; those from Staten Island a bit more arty and intellectual, in some respects. Brooklyn, to me, brings the passion and force. Staten Island and Richmond (the capital) has a smaller population than the other boroughs – it is about 474,000 at the moment. Manhattan, despite its bustle and size, has slightly fewer people than The Bronx – both hovering around 1,600/1,700 or there about. Queens has about 2.4 million whilst Brooklyn has 2.6 million – maybe slightly more at the moment. They are rough figures but Brooklyn has Kings as its capital; Queens has Queens. It is a regal balance that is musically appropriate. I often assume Queens is more ‘feminine’ and restrained; Brooklyn has that austerity and iron fist. Again, this is my takeaway from exposure to music from the boroughs. My main point is that New York is a complex girl who deserves more attention. L.A. gets all that acclaim and people lust after its music, sunshine and scenery.

New York has that reputation as being more unforgiving, less tranquil and more crowded. Inside that cosmopolitan clammer is a wealth of musicians. Brooklyn is an absolute Paradise for great artists. I will mention my featured artist in a minute but she slots into a borough overflowing with promise. It is a vivid, variegated hang-out that is inspiring the new generation. I will mention an article by BK Magazine (http://www.bkmag.com/2016/04/25/9-nyc-bands-need-hear/) and their tips but consider the artists that play around Brooklyn. Established artists like Sufjan Stevens hails from the borough and you can just tell, can’t you?! His blend of experimental and eccentric music seems to vibe from Brooklyn and takes from every corner of the place. Those interesting back-alleys and the eye-catching panoramas; the mix of cultures, people and hotspots – sticking his head around every doorway and sniffing in every scent, sight and suggestion. Big bands at the moment like Parquet Courts, TV on the Radio; Yeasayer and LCD Soundsystem hail from Brooklyn and, between them, are among the most interesting and influential modern acts. LCD Soundsystem, like Stevens, represents the complexities and character of Brooklyn in a very different way. In additional the established boys (and girls) of Brooklyn; there is a new wave of talent that is worth keeping a close check on. TORRES is the moniker of Mackenzie Scott: she is signed to Partisan and has captivated audience across the borough – and beyond. Her second album, Sprinter, came out in the middle of last year and engrossed critics. She is someone who is able to silence rowdy crowds with a few notes. A reminder of the beauty and power some of Brooklyn’s finest singers possesses. Stranger Cat is another worthwhile artist and stems from Cat Martino. Her lauded debut album documented break-ups and heartache but did so in a cheery and almost matter-of-fact way. A new approach to the love-mainframe: an artist capable of providing original takes on heartbreak and producing plenty of nuances with it. Similarly, LEIF is an act who compels you to dance and lose your inhibitions.

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Color Guard are a bunch of ragtag scruffs who provide thoughtful and earworm Pop. Their music is perfect for chilling out to and getting the blood racing. They are complex and simple; colourful and direct – a great band that is looking set to claim large chunks of America over the coming months. Thanks to http://www.bkmag.com/2016/04/25/9-nyc-bands-need-hear/ for tips: BK Magazine laid out recommendations (last year) for artists worth your time and attention. Eartheater is Alexandra Drewchin’s solo project. She is a multi-instrumentalist and blends jarring, sharp noises with delicacy. Many call her music extreme and polemic but it is broad and varied. Her voice has a tenderness and sophistication whilst the compositions are packed with all sorts of emotions and possibilities. Anyone who thought they had Brooklyn music figured would do well to hear Eartheater. Japanese Breakfast, with that great name, is the project of Michelle Zauner. Her crew put together Psychopomp and projected a volcanic brand of Pop that tackles difficult topics. It is dreamy and rushing but looks at loss, climax and pain with authority, sensitivity and intelligence. It is another case of Brooklyn musicians looking at human emotions but wrapping them in something accessible and detailed. There is never a sense of being dragged into a chasm of darkness and foreboding fire. Laetitia Tamko unveiled Vagabon’s spine-tingling Persian Garden E.P. back in 2014. Back then, there was a lot of attention coming her way. No mystery as her singer-songwriter skin masks a soul that yearns to explode and reveal everything. A bit Post-Punk and Rock: a tantalising thrill-ride of contrasts that is propelled by Tamiko’s incredible songwriting – the band have had several iterations; she is the one constant. She is recording and continuing to produce material at the moment. One of Brooklyn’s most promising and alluring talents – definitely worth fonder investigation.

The last few New York/Brooklyn names I want to bring in begins with Israeli-born Ohal. She is a multi-instrumentalist who released her solo album Acid Park (her debut) last year. She has had an itinerant background and travelled to Paris as a teenager. Only armed with a Casio keyboard; she arrived in America’s Midwest before heading to the New York just days before the attacks on the Twin Towers. That tragedy and atrocity was an eye-opener for someone new to the nation. No safely ensconced in Brooklyn; she is reflecting the times and another songwriter who brings internationality and cosmopolitan strands to her work. Black Marble released A Different Arrangement back in 2012 and have, since then, have been a bit quiet. There is talk of more material and a return to that exceptional album. Diamond Terrifier (Sam Hillmer) is loud and weird – only in a wonderful way – a couple more artists who deserve attention and respect. That is just the tip of the new acts in Brooklyn. I will return to this subject in the conclusion but find it interesting dissecting Erin Pellnat. She has band experience – I will touch on that in the conclusion – but wanted to look at her in the context of Brooklyn and those who mix genres. I have seen some reviewers label her work as radio-friendly. That word tends to throw up images of bland Pop and basic songwriter that does not challenge the mind. In a more accurate way, it is music that is easy to love but challenges deeper thought.  Most of my perceptions about Brooklyn stem from those artists that slam it down and dig the grit from the pavements. You cannot assume Brooklyn is all about attitude and flair: it has so many layers and different areas. As Pellnat proves, you cannot define a borough as busy and diverse as Brooklyn. She is making her way as a young musician but is taking inspiration from the streets, people and daily life. What strikes me about her work is a distinct confidence and authority. Her music never seems reluctant or under-cooked: every moment is from a songwriter who knows what she is doing and what she wants to achieve.

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I wanted to focus on Dream in Color’s title track as the best definition of the E.P. The four-track explores different emotions and aspects (more on that later) and brings so many different genres together. I always find myself attracted to musicians that push the boundaries and do not go for the obvious. Were Pellnat merely an average radio-friendly act she would not be quite so experimental and considerate. I hear so many new artists produce the most uninspired and basic compositions around. It is aimed squarely at those with short attention spans that do not really want to be challenged. With Dream in Color, one experiences something a lot more crafted and provoking. One gets (in the E.P.) bits of Bossa-Nova, Folk; some Pop and Soul – pretty much everything in-between! It takes a few listens to really appreciate all the E.P. has to offer. I shall get to that later but, for the moment, wanted to single Pellnat out as a female talent with a future. Although she is at the forefront of the music; credit must go to her father, Christopher, who pens the songs – the heartbeat behind the music. It is 2017 and music is as busy and competitive as any time in history. Cities are big and there is so much pressure for artists to succeed. It is hard standing aside and getting your music heard these days. Not to disparage newcomers but things are hard and by no means certain. It is daunting considering being in Brooklyn and launching a debut E.P. You are in a borough that is part of a massive state: from there, you need to connect with local media and engage social media. Performing around Brooklyn – with hundreds of other new artists doing the same – it is can reduce the best of us to tears. With Pellnat, you have someone who realises the challenges and is, rather impressively, producing music that is better than most stuff out there. I have given you a flavour of new Brooklyn music and will go into more depth in the closing remarks. It is a populous borough that is in, debatably, the greatest place for music in the world. I would challenge London could take it in a fight but have massive respect for New York in general. What one hears (from their artists) is something instant and defined. What I mean is you never struggle to find a band/artist that gets straight into the mind.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Lloyd E Vines

If you want some great Rock and Punk from Brooklyn; there is enough out there. Go a few blocks away and one can experience some fantastic Pop and experimental Jazz. Flip down a side-alley and in the neon shadow of a local club, your ears can detect some phenomenal Electronica. To get ahead in Brooklyn, one must have a number of things – a steely resolve, fantastic music and the ability to subvert expectations. Pellnat reacts to the life and contrasts of Brooklyn and blends it with observations on universal concerns. There is a lot of personality in her music; you discover hints of her influences and impressions of the area she resides in. Female artists are in my mind this year and ensuring they get proper respect. I have mentioned a few Brooklyn female wonders and an insight into what the borough contains. I love the boys and their music but have a special place in my heart for the girls of music. I feel they are under more pressure and have fewer opportunities. I want to bring it back in – a point I have mentioned frequently – but the issue extend to the U.S. Erin Pellnat is an unsigned musician in Brooklyn which must provide a sense of freedom but some fears with it. She does not need to follow dictate and be moulded by a record label – told how to dress and what to say. That being said, there is a lack of financial and commercial backing one might find with a label. I am sure she will get a deal pretty soon – Dream in Color is a great step that should prick the ears of those labels in New York. Old Flame Records or Sacred Bones have, between them, signed Cloud Nothings and Zola Jesus. I suggest Ba Da Bing – who has Beirut on their books – might be a label perfectly suited to Pellnat. Virtual Label or The End Records are slightly bigger but scouting for fresh talent. I am not sure whether Pellnat favours the lack of restrictions one finds being independent or is seeking the guidance and acknowledgement of a local label. It cannot be too long before her talent catches the eye of an influential name.

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With female artists, I almost feel they are on the back foot the moment they come into music. I am uncertain whether Brooklyn is the same as cities in the U.K. – there does seem to be a universality to things. I know there will be female artists in Brooklyn that have enormous talent but being overlooked by male bands and artists.  I shall not go too much into the sexism debate but know New York must suffer from that. We see it enough in London and it seems to be an epidemic in the world of music. Pellnat knows she will have to battle that extra bit harder but not someone who wags her fingers are record labels and male peers. Instead, she produces honest and fascinating music that should see her climb the rungs of the commercial ladder. I know for a fact there are some wonderful venues in Brooklyn that are readymade for Pellnat. I have been in love with The Knitting Factory ever since I heard one of Jeff Buckley’s final concerts there. I might be going off-piste but it is important to look at the Brooklyn live scene and opportunities open to new performers. The Knitting Factory is a perfect and evocative space that have seen, as said, legends like Jeff Buckley play – as he was premiering material from his, unfortunately, incomplete album, My Sweetheart the Drunk. It seems tailored for Pellnat and somewhere she could cut her teeth. Not to create a digression but Brooklyn is bursting with great venues and spots the likes Pellnat could own. Glasslands is down in the Williamsburg neighbourhood and promotes Indie bands on the edge of the mainstream. Don Pedro, down in East Williamsburg, has some excellent bands playing there – in addition to some top-notch tacos! Another two great spots would be Silent Barn over in Bushwick. It is a hipster hang-out that is becoming a must-play for D.I.Y. artists. That seems like a great place for Pellnat to showcase her music and get inside the local mindset. Trans-Pecos is on the Queens/Bushwick border and prides itself on experimental sounds and D.I.Y. musicians of all kinds.

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Thinking of those great D.I.Y. venues around Brooklyn; it makes me think of Erin Pellnat and her ethics. She is one of those musicians, with Christopher Pellnat as songwriter, who can create vivid intensity and dreamy diversions with minimal technology and studio intrusion. I feel the D.I.Y. route is not only becoming fashionable and preferred but completely necessary. Many new acts have so little revenue coming in: it means their balance sheets are going to be lop-sided and profitability is not going to be instant. I have a lot of love for homemade and self-produced music as it gives control to an artist and forces a different creative mind. If you are unsigned and having to put all your sounds together, the sheer pressure can be immense. That being said, it does force one to be inventive and economical. Is that really true? I would say there is a lot of promise in older recording techniques and technology. You can elicit originality and excitement from eight-track recorders; I have reviewed bands putting music onto cassettes and stripping things right back. Technological breakthroughs have given us a music studio in the palm of our hands: one can sample all sorts of instruments and produce their songs without much fuss. Whilst it is good to have that accessibility and range; I wonder whether too many artists are readily feeding their songs into the machine and negating the importance of real instruments. It is an interesting debate and one I can see validity in. If you look at the struggle and reality of a D.I.Y. artist, you would forgive them for resorting to iPads and sound samples. In a way, you can create some fantastic and direct music that way – I am reminded of The Streets who, back in 2002, uses samples when creating Original Pirate Material. Locked in the bedroom, nary a dollar to your name, how tangible would it be for Pellnat to employ loads of musicians? Dream in Colour is her utilising her own talents and not taking an easy option. Despite the fact she has to graft and campaign on her own – she has managed to produce a fantastic, D.I.Y. album that does not sound inferior to any studio-created effort.

It is really difficult getting attention if you do not have a record label behind you. I interview and review a lot of acts who have the backing of P.R. companies and labels. They still have to work hard but have someone else taking care of promotions and gig bookings. The D.I.Y. artist, conversely, shoulders all the workload and has to divide their time between recording, promoting and touring. With Pellnat, she is in a great part of America that provides sufficient venues and wonderful local acts. It means she is in a competitive market and a borough that has a lot of great music. She is one of the better artists of Brooklyn because of her ethos and drive. There are few more passionate and determined musicians than her. It is exciting seeing a new artist coming through and making their first moves. Whilst the challenges and daily life of a musician can be daunting it does not mean everything is bad. In fact, it is one of those industries with limitless possibilities. I am not too sure what 2017-Brooklyn sounds like but I know there are some great acts coming out right now. Pellnat will vibe from that but is determined not to be compared with anybody else. It is an exciting and busy time for music: 2016 was a bad year for many reasons so there is that collective need to bring joy and magic to this year. Pellnat does freelance work for a local studio and fronts her own band – I shall go into that later. She has that experience that will help her rise above most her peers and gain her respect. I wanted to look at Dream in Color’s title track – whilst mentioning the rest of the work – because it brings together that wonderful rich music and vintage touches. You get a sense of history and bygone glory (in her work) together with modern dynamics.

That brings me – just before I come to look at her work – to songs and music that do things differently. Dream in Colour (E.P.) has Bossa-Nova and accordion. There are some fantastic beats and so much going on in the music – the combination of father-daughter Christopher and Erin. I find a lot of bands are stifled by rigidity and do not stretch their creative palette that much. Too many solo artists are not extended their range which means you get some rather beige and insipid artists around. Those who go the extra mile and put imagination in their music will always be more appreciated and respected. Dream in Color’s title track is about someone unable to see the beauty in life – too closed off and not willing to let the light in. So many songs address love and that comes at the expense of an original thought. Pellnat (Christopher) has crafted a song that, one suspects, refers to a lot of people but could be about a specific subject. It is an interesting idea and one relevant to the time we live in: there is a lot of bad out there but plenty of good out there. Many reviewers have been buzzing about the song and eating up its messages and brilliant sound. It is a stunning track from an artist who wants to be known for her original voice. I am impressed by her songwriting because you get that lyrical freshness – it makes you think and raises some great points. The music is varied and lush; it mixes genres and sounds whilst sounding natural and flowing. That central vocal is commanding and has that tough exterior – able to project vulnerability and sensitivity when required. All this comes through in an E.P. blossoming into life and seducing press in New York. Stay is a love song (couched as a song of thanks) aimed at mothers and fathers – how they equip us to love. Blues Skies and Happiness is a Bossa-Nova-flavoured jam that is a breakup song – never one that sounds depressed or resigned. Forever Kisses has that accordion-drenched Waltz that is a homage to the passage of time. You get ideas of love and life but a unique perspective on common themes.

Before I come to look at Dream in Color’s title track, it is worth having a brief look at the other E.P. tracks. Blue Skies and Happiness begins with a soft and romantic guitar introduction. Pellnat’s voice is smooth and graceful; it has beauty and power in it. Maybe looking at a particular friend or sweetheart: they were lying and not a prince. It is, with him, all “grey skies”. Things are not blue and sunny as they should be. Pellant’s voice is commanding and gorgeous throughout in a song whose composition is quite minimal. There is a brief hiss of percussion and some breezy guitar notes – for the most part, it is a slinky and slight backing. It reminds me of a classic singer like Julie London scoring a Riviera-set song during the 1950s. It is an instant track that has that cool breeze but keeps you hooked with the lyrical meanings and depths. Stay opens with that vocal and another chance to hear a singer in a league of her own. You get all sorts of emotions coming through. Christopher Pellant’s lyrics intrigue from the early stages – “I’m the daughter of my father and on his behalf I welcome you to stay/This house is mine until the end of time” – and you are caught in something rather captivating. It is another vocal performance that has a sensuality and smoothness to it. Never does it become too hot or heavy but never too slight. Pellnat’s control and talent keep you curious and brings the listener into a world of song – you picture the lyrics and put yourself directly in the scene. As it continues, those Gallic strings come out and provide a wistful sense of romance. You imagine rolling hills and the countryside come into view. The story unravels as the heroine plays it sly – she is quite shy – and wants her subject to stay. Whether a lover or a close acquaintance; you hear that desire emerge from the vocal performance. Again, the composition has its moments but the emphasis is on the lead vocal.

By the final track, you have a sense of Pellnat’s vocal strengths and the beautiful variations of lyrics/composition. Forever Kisses has a sway and sound that reminds me, strangely, of The Cardigan’s album, Life. That mix of sounds and perfect Pop blend puts me in mind of the Swedish band. The E.P. closer is something that looks at sunshine and sandwiches; walks on the beach – that need to preserve something happy and pure. Pellnat’s voice is lullaby-like and swinging. It has that sway and dance that makes the song waltz-like and beautiful. Backed by slight percussion and effectively rousing guitar strings; it is a song you wish would go on for longer. Ironic of its title, you yearn for more as it gets into the heart and creates all sorts of reactions. Like the other tracks on the E.P., there is that incredible vocal but you get different compositions and themes explored on each track. Life in Color is an E.P. that can accompany you on a sunset drive or occupy your mind when you are on a beach – it can go anywhere and perfectly lift the mood. Those 1950s shades and old-time, black-and-white romance emerges: it is rare to hear that from a modern young artist. The bond and connection between the two Pellnat’s is clear throughout. I was amazed by the range of sounds and that comparison to The Cardigans is not rash. Life, their 1995 album, contained lush productions and varied composition; a perfect 1990s’ Pop album and that balance of exuberance and tenderness. In the same way the songwriters for The Cardigans – before Nina Persson took up scribbling – were Heavy Metal fans – and subverted that with brilliant Pop songs – you would not expect Pellnat, a Brooklyn native, to have that sound. Her songwriter is an established musician and producer so has got that background and skillset – able to weave incredible songs and take the listener in different directions. Life in Color is dexterous and expansive: suggesting there is plenty more material and promise in the future.

The other three tracks on the E.P. have a somewhat luxurious, tenderness that mixes in beauty and grace with cinematic swathes and heartfelt, vivid lyrics. The title track is a bit of a different affair. From the opening bars, you know it is a darker and deep song that its sisters. There is a hint of an organ and hard, plucked strings. That marriage has an edginess and shadow to it: combining with light and relief, it is a compelling opening that leads to an incredible vocal. In terms of style, you hear some shades of Lana Del Rey, perhaps, but I get some Country vibes. The guitars definitely wear cowboy boots but the lyrics themselves defy genre and restriction. The opening lines – “Think fast, faster than you can haul ass/Away from your deep and dark past” – are delivered in a very special way. It is another song where there is such movement in the vocal dynamic. There is syncopating but the lines rise and then dip”: there is a skip and step to the delivery which brings them right into the mind. Instead of the more straightforward delivery of the other tracks; here, there is a different agenda and style. Our heroine asks why (you) do not dream in colour (sic.). It is a question that raises a question: maybe someone who has got that troubled background but not willing to think big and have ambitions. Pellnat lets her voice cut to the quick and right into the mind of her subject. Perhaps it is a reflection on herself – wondering why she is letting the past affect her – but you feel it is aimed at somebody else. The next verse offers some sage advice: breathe deep, the cycle, it’s said, is complete; you can dream in colour. Again, that vocal flows and jumps: it is a performance that brings all the nuance and strands of the song to the forefront. At the earliest stages, one imagines whether the song refers to the way people can identify too strongly with their mistakes and unable to rectify that. Maybe we all become too hesitant and confine ourselves in life. We are unable to dream and have those ambitions; perhaps it is hard to move on and transition from a difficult past.

I mentioned that composition and how it differed from the sounds across the other E.P. tracks. Once more, it never grows too large; instead, it accompanies the vocals and provides plenty of reflection and strength. The vibe/genre is a mixture of                 Country and Folk. Throughout the E.P., there have been steps into Bossa-Nova, Pop and Indie: here, it is a softer and calmer affair; one of those songs that want to lifts the spirits and keep its heart pure. On one of the E.P.’s finest lines – “Watercolors bleed from a brush in a glass on the table” – one sees the hero/heroine as an artist – only willing to paint in shades of grey. Here, there is a real question put at the feet: why not hope for the best and realise things will be okay? That use of colour and art to express emotions and the song’s themes is handled very well. It could be a cliché – one of the lyrics actually goes: “I know it sounds corny” – but you have a song that has originality and intelligence. Were this an offering from a modern-day Pop star, words relating to colours and art (as symbolism and metaphors) would be rather clunky and immature. Here, Pellnat (Christopher) pens a fascinating and impressive song that has already resonated with many critics. Pellnat (Erin) delivers the words with a mixture of concern and support. This subject has had a broken past and made mistakes but has the chance to change all that. I am not sure what has compelled the pivotal change, an opportunity to be free or something, but it is definitely the time to strike. Dream in Color is a song that will make everyone think and look at their own lives. Do we really take the time to think big and improve things? It is an interesting idea and one that will motivate repeated listens.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Lloyd E Vines

As the song comes to its final stages, the song looks at love and trueness – our heroine asks her subject to love truer than they have before – which might suggest romantic issues and relationship problems have affected them. Maybe that trust is gone and it will take a while to reclaim confidence. Our heroine knows it will be a rainbow and everything will be good: they just have to get past the part of them that’s holding them back. Everything is grey with the hero; they are looking at the worst-case possibility and not able to get past that. Pellnat is willing to sit down and act as mediator: help vanquish that part of their brain that is holding them back. I like the way the song shifts from that accelerated, urgent beginning to something much more sedate and sober. It is a shift you barely notice and one that changes the meaning of the song. At first, you are caught in that vocal flow but start to settle into the song in the later stages. Throughout, one wonders who the song’s subject is and whether they managed to evade the funk they are in. They are asked to haul ass from that past and shift the shackles of the darkness that imprisons them. It is a universal sentiment that will connect with many listeners. Most of us struggle to, if we are caught in a miasma, see a brighter side and find that colour. Because of that, Dream in Color is a song that will have international appeal and reach music fans of all genres. It is a song that shows the songwriting strengths of Christopher Pellnat and the incredible vocal pull of Erin Pellnat; a brilliant song that showcases a rare talent. I would love to hear more from Pellnat in the future as, on the strength of her E.P., we have a striking and unique artist in the midst.

Before I take this all down, I wanted to look back at themes of New York, Brooklyn and venues/bands around the area – what defines the place and how it all hangs together. I’ll revisit Pellnat in the context of D.I.Y. artists and spend a bit more time exploring originality and depth in music. Before I get there, it is an exciting time for Erin Pellnat. She has gathered a lot of great reviews for Dream in Color. It is no surprise journalists are showing a lot of love for her E.P. At its heart is a work that connects with people and brings them in. You get 1960s’ Pop and heritage with some Spaghetti Western vibes – twanging and evocative; a black-and-white showdown about to unfold. Down another street, one can discover Gaelic touches and the evocativeness of rolling hills and stunning vistas. One gets an aural blast of the open countryside and far-off streams. Pellnat is a modern-day artist who finds greater inspiration from the past. Reviewers have noted a connection to Judy Collins or Nico – some modern artists are mentioned but not as much as the 1960s/’70s examples. Blues Skies and Happiness takes you down another street: it is a familial affair where Pellant’s father (Christopher) joins the E.P. A smooth, Jazz workout that boasts maturity and accomplished musicianship. You get a sound of home and D.I.Y. with the professionalism and quality one might expect from a huge studio. Pellnat has a musical family and fronts her own band, Caretaker. They are one of the most colourful and intriguing acts in New York and have a definite future. Pellnat uses her experience from the band and brings it to her solo material. Whilst a different sound to Caretaker; there is never a sense of doing this as a side project. She is committed to both ventures but going solo is tough and fraught. She understands how hard it is for genuinely great music to get attention and respect. There is that never-ending demand for something fake and commercial.

Pellnat prides stunning music and personality over commercialisation and something easy. The artists I review go beyond the demands of the charts and write from their heart. She has that experience and family tie but does not let anyone else define her work. One experiences a strong and unique individual who has potential to create many more works. I hope Dream in Color is going to be followed by other work. I can see Pellnat going a long way and creating loads more music. I wonder whether she will have energy and inspiration for another E.P. this year or thinking about an album. Certainly, with her talent and potential, you will get much more music in the future. I am sure balancing between band and solo life will be challenging but something she is handling very well. I hope Pellnat finds the finances to come and do some gigs in the U.K. at some point. It would be great to hear her here and have fans connect with her music. Britain is well set-up to welcome artists like Pellnat. I have seen quite a few American acts come over here and be afforded a hospitable welcome. She would likely get a few gigs in London and plenty of chances to go up and down the country. In Europe, there are nations that would welcome her to heart. It makes me wonder whether international gigs are a reality for modern musicians. Unless you have that gig revenue and label backing; how logical is it to cast your mind across the oceans? Whatever her plans for 2017, Pellnat (with her father) has crafted a superb E.P. that demonstrates raw and real talent – plenty more potential to come in the future.

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I’ll wrap it up by talking about Brooklyn and New York; a bit about originality and depth – D.I.Y. artists and their potential. Thanks again to BROOKLYN http://www.bkmag.com/2016/04/25/9-nyc-bands-need-hear/ – who I will borrow from and return to those New York/Brooklyn acts worth watching. Eddi Front is led by Ivana Carrescia (Dan Chen on piano) and has impressed local reviewers and fans with incredible songs and huge talent. Songs have been surfaced on the Internet since 2012 but it seems this year will be a vital one for Eddi Front. Noise-Punk trio Bambara have been in New York since 2011 – moved from Atlanta, Georgia – and harnessed their vibrant, snarling sound on 2013’s Dreamviolence. They are more honed and focused since their beginnings and has provided the band with a solid and loyal fanbase. WALL – what it with bands/acts that capitalise their names?! – are a four-piece consisting Vanessa Gomez, Vince McClelland with Elizabeth Skadden and Sam York. Their eponymous E.P. thrilled the Internet; the Texas-born quartet are a fixture in New York and likely to increase in stature and confidence. If you want to talk about great Brooklyn artists then Woods must be near the top of the list. They have managed to transform Folk-Rock and Psychedelia. Their songs are bright but never too cheery and create musical interjections and diversions that keep you hooked – every song has its own life and nuance. Emmy the Great is doing fantastic work at the moment and one of the most prominent artists from Brooklyn. She is back with female contemporaries like Emma-Lee Moss – who makes soft and thought-provoking songs about growing up. She proves the diversity and polemics of Brooklyn music: going from bracing and pummelling acts to those calmer and more reflective. There are plenty of other great Brooklyn artists to recommend this year so suggest people do some research. I am excited at how productive and fertile the borough is.

As I said earlier; it is the most-populous of the five boroughs and always has that reputation. Many see it as a harsher and less forgiving part of New York than, say, Staten Island. Queens might be the most direct comparison to Brooklyn: both are a bit more ‘real’ and show the true nature of New York. Many think of Manhattan when looking at New York as it is the place most tourists go to. Brooklyn is not too far away but not one tourists and international visitors flock to. That is a shame because it is, in my view, one of the most exceptional areas for music. There is no stopping the phenomenal acts and brilliant sounds oozing from every crevice. I have mentioned some live venues around the borough but that is just the start of it. Look beyond the obvious and you can discover so many great bars and venues one can witness fine and impactful music. I am always going to root for those who do things on their own and have that D.I.Y. aesthetic. It is tough getting acclaim when you do not have a record label – Pellnat will get there but is starting on her own. At the moment, her music is resonating with critics and fans and attracting new support. Her songs have all sorts of instruments and side to them. Some moments (on Dream in Colour) have Irish/countryside vibes whilst others are more exotic, tropical and colourful. It is a consistent and exceptional work that keeps on provoking reaction and emotion. Its title track is a perfect statement from a New York artist who is working tirelessly getting her music out there. Because of that, in my humble opinion, she is someone who…

DESERVES a long and successful career.

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