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PHOTO CREDIT: Low Key Collective


Bare Traps


THE charming and funny lads of Bare Traps

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have been celebrated and championed by BBC Introducing and Radio X. The guys, in an attempt to avoid real work, formed the band – they have been on a noble quest since then. All in You is the new song and one the guys are really pumped about. Small wonder once you hear it: your heart and brain will be hooked and seduced. Waiting Outside is the B-side and, whilst not as immediate as All in You, it is a song that shows Bare Traps have plenty of confidence. I ask how influential London is to them and whether it drives creativity; which new acts of the minute they’d single out for success. I was curious to know whether we could expect any new material later in the year: this is reveal alongside plenty of witty quotes and humorous filthy. Few acts really stand out in the mind but with Bare Traps you get bags of personality and chest-loads of brilliant music. One of the most impressive propositions currently working in London; sit down and get inside the world of the always-brilliant Bare Traps.


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

Busy, busy, busy! We just had our release show at The Victoria in Dalston on Friday – so we’d spent a lot of time getting ready for that. We really wanted to put on a good show rather than just play a bunch of songs. We’ve been practising our scissor-kicks, knee-slides and stick twirling. Fortunately, once we got on stage we remembered we’re an Indie band and not AC/DC – so stage tricks were kept to a minimum. There was definitely some guitar-shredding, though. We filmed our first-ever music video a couple of days later and that was really fun!

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

We’re four young men that met through a shared love of making noise and delinquent behaviour. We do our best to be well-behaved these days, though – honest mum! Originally, we’re from various parts of England, but we all call London home; the typical non-London Londoners.  For the most part, we make good-vibes guitar music that sounds like summer. It’s all about hooks and danceability for us.

I am intrigued by your band name, ‘Bare Traps’. Not just because of its homonymic qualities but the images it compels. What is the reasoning behind that name?

Well, we like to attempt to be really deep and tell people it’s a play on words that refers to the kind of potentially damaging situations we allow ourselves to get into in life; when you get yourself involved with something that you know is going to eventually bite you in the arse – but you do it anyway. That’s a bare, exposed trap. But, really, that’s horsesh*t and we thought it was more identifiable than ‘bear trap’. If you really want a laugh then type ‘bear trap’ into Urban Dictionary as we did recently. You’ll never look at us the same again…

Can you tell me how you all got together in the first place?

We met on Tinder Socials. Did you know that thing’s for orgies? We were shocked – we’re all so innocent. After some consideration, we opted to just make music together rather than bang. That’s probably not a true story but we’ve told it so many times we’ve confused ourselves.

All in You is the new single. What can you tell me about the concept and meaning of the track?

All in You was written from start-to-finish in about an hour – which is, by far, the quickest we’ve ever written a song. It stemmed from the main guitar hook which just inspired us to go all out sun-drenched tropicalness.

So, we threw in some Caribbean steel drums for good measure. It’s about falling in love (yawn!), but really, we wanted to try and sonically replicate the feelings you get when you first fall for someone: sunshine, happiness and all that nonsense. We’re all influenced by Math-Rock so pretty stoked that we squeezed a time-signature change and tempo change into the middle of the song. It still managed to keep it sounding like a Pop song.

You have a B-side, Waiting Outside. It is quite rare bands putting out B-sides these days. Why did you feel motivated to do so? Do you think more artists should keep the tradition alive?

We don’t feel that Waiting Outside is quite as immediate as All in You but still feel that it’s a strong track. It sits really well with the single and actually creates a bit of a story arc in terms of narrative. All in You tells of a blossoming romance whereas Waiting Outside describes a relationship that has matured. We do think that it’s a shame that the death of physical record formats has led to standalone tracks becoming the industry standard now. Releasing more than one track at a time gives the listener that bit more entertainment and allows artists the means to express themselves to a higher degree. We should try and keep some of those traditions alive.

BBC Radio 6 Music and other huge stations have featured your music and helped you reached new fans. How important has that airplay been to you and how do things like social media help get the Bare Traps sound to the masses?

The support we’ve received from BBC Introducing has been amazing. A benefit of us being from all around the country means that loads of different BBC regional stations, as well as BBC Radio 6, have played us.

We’re trying to collect the full set. Come on Radio One – catch on! Social media is our main means of spreading our brand and has been since the band’s inception. We’ve all played countless shows in other bands and fallen victim to crooked promoters and sh*t deals in which we’ve basically ended up paying to play. In Bare Traps, we said from day one that we wouldn’t be willing to do that – so we’ve used social media as our primary means of building a fan-base. It’s worked because, now, plenty of people come to every one of our gigs and we get paid like we should! Well, most of the time.

I think you have said All in You is the best thing you have come up with. It is sunny and filled with imagination. When did you realise the song hit those heights and will future songs contain the same sort of elements?

We felt that All in You was a banger from the moment the first guitar riff was played in practice. We were supposed to be rehearsing for a gig but we just jammed on this idea instead because we were all so into it. It was one of those instances of the songwriting itself – it was just so intuitive and natural. I think that’s the main reason we knew we were on to something special with this one. It just made us all feel great and we hope it does the same for other people. We’ve already written a whole bunch of stuff with similar elements which we’re aiming to record very soon.

Does this mean we can expect to see an E.P. or album anytime soon?

Despite what we said earlier about releasing more than one track at time, we don’t see ourselves releasing any extended-plays in the near-future. As an independent band, it’s not really cost-effective to do so and that’s all it boils down to really. Sh*t, we’d love to release an album – we’ve certainly got enough material but reality’s a bitch and we don’t have a record deal to fund it. Unfortunately, with the way the music industry is now, you generally have to start off with a shed-load of cash to be a success which doesn’t make a great deal of sense, but, whatever. We don’t have rich mummies and daddies to help us out but, hey, don’t hate the player, hate the game, right? We’re not bitter, honest.

Are there any musicians or albums you listening to growing up that has helped shape and define the band’s direction/music?

We’ve been compared to Foals a number of times – and we’re certainly all fans of that band – so we enjoy that comparison. The angular-guitar-style and dance-music-style beats from their first two albums have definitely influenced our sound.

Bloc Party are probably the biggest one for us, though. It’s safe to say that without Bloc Party there would be no Bare Traps. Silent Alarm is a seminal album, in our eyes.

It introduced a very Math-Rock-type sound to an Indie audience and it’s probably safe to say that every Indie band since has been influenced by those guys. We’re really into Dance music too and that definitely shows in our sound. We have our heavier moments, but – at the risk of sounding like a naff D.J. at a wedding – we’re more about grooving and getting people to get on down.

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In the coming weeks, you are playing a few gigs – London and Birmingham included. Any you are particularly looking forward to and what can we expect from a Bare Traps live show?

We’re definitely looking forward to the Birmingham show – as it’s our first show as a band in that town. The Actress & Bishop is a cool venue and we know we’ve got a fair few fans in the Midlands – so we’re hoping it should get pretty lively.

The band is based in London. How influential is the city to your music and what does London provide that nowhere else does?

We’re a pretty London-centric band in terms of our identity but we don’t really feel that it’s reflected in our sound. Being ‘London’ has become synonymous with being cool and we’re under no illusions: we’re not very cool. We just make music to please ourselves and we’re all suckers for catchy Pop music, so that’s what we write. It’s been said that our sound isn’t current and we’re not exactly what radio is looking for at the moment. But we give a grand total of zero-fu*ks about that. Yeah sure, we’d be lying if we said we don’t want people to like our music but we’re not going to change our sound because of what some people think.

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London can be quite an oppressive environment in that respect (well, in many respects) but Bare Traps is about giving London the middle-finger and just getting on with it.

London is a fickle mistress – one we can’t live with and one we can’t live without.  It’s tough living in London and Bare Traps provides us with enough good vibes to keep afloat.

If you had to select an album each that have meant the most to you; what would they be and why?

Sam: Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here. I had heard the single but I found the album a few years ago on vinyl and couldn’t believe how good each song is.

Luke: This is a ludicrously tough question to answer as there are just so many albums I love. I’ve got a lot of memories that are sound-tracked by Bloc Party – Intimacy, though. I feel like I came of age to that record, and I kind of feel that band really found their sound on that album too – so it coincided nicely.

Liam: Red Hot Chili Peppers – By the Way. Along with Californication, this is one of the first albums I can remember listening too. My dad was obsessed with the band and that this album was on constantly in the car.

Scott: Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. It came out around the time I first began to learn drums and really influenced my playing. So much so that I sacked-off my drum tutor and just taught myself to play by playing along to that record.

Who are the new artists you recommend we investigate?

One of our best mates, Poté. He’ll blow your balls and/or tits off! He’s receiving loads of love from Annie Mac at Radio One at the mo. He’s super-original and there’s so much soul in his production and writing. The guy’s going to be huge. Our drummer, Scott, also drums for him when he does his live show. Watch this space!

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

Errrm, no. But, if anyone has any advice for us that would be great. Actually, stay true to yourself (is probably the best advice we can give). Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll be happy if you just get that record deal – not that we’d know, but anyway, sack that! Just make music that makes you happy; maybe your mum. It’s nice when your mum genuinely likes your music.

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

Sam: Homeshake – Call Me Up

Luke: Will Joseph Cook – Take Me Dancing

Scott: Palace – Live Well

Liam: Clean Cut Kid – Leaving You Behind


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INTERVIEW: David Mark Bulley



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David Mark Bulley


MORETON’S very own David Mark Bulley is, without having to dig too much…

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a hugely impressive and passionate artist. He has accumulated a strong following in Poland and created interest in countries as far-flung as Japan and France. Already a headline star in Poland; he played the Torwar Arena as part of the 2016 Young Stars Festival. If that weren’t enough, he has performed his song Sunlight with Polish artist Sylvia Przbysz. It might be strange seeing a British artist have that affection in Poland but he is not just limited to that nation. Here, there is an enormous and devoted following that will take him as far as he needs to go. I ask him about new song, Where Do We Go from Here and what it means to him – the origins and inspiration behind it. It follows from previous singles Wonderful Life and Lions – all three will appear on his forthcoming debut album. His previous E.P., A Thousand Bonfires, was released in 2014 so I ask him how he feels about his new music. Bulley discusses issues of depression and how they affected his songwriting; whether he will be returning to Poland and any words of wisdom for new artists.


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

Hello! I’m really good, thank you. It’s been crazy busy!

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

Of course. My name is David Mark Bulley and I’m a singer/songwriter from London, England.

Where Do We Go from Here is your new track. Can you tell me about the inspiration behind it?


The music industry can be a very daunting and lonely place. It’s like high-school, but harder!

There are so many bad people who have hidden agendas and this is exactly what this song is about: not always trusting those people who surround you.

The video is an action-packed mini-film that seems like it was a ball to film. What was that experience like?

Legit, the best thing in my life – I cried at least six times. I wanted this video to be badass and I wanted my fans to see a side of me that they haven’t seen yet. It was about one-degree that day, though, and shooting took ten hours – so it was cold but so much fun!

For the video, you borrowed thirty-five actors from the London College of Music. It is an ambitious visual. Have visual arts and music videos always been a passion?

Firstly, I just have to say; the actors in this film were incredible and left me so inspired by their passion and hard work. You know, as an artist, when you write a song, it should come from the heart (for me, anyway). I spend so much time writing and recording my music. I want that to portray in the video, too.

The track (and video) looks at a sense of escape and trust. With the world changing as it is – Brexit and division – is there a sense of reacting to the times or is it a more personal, spiritual message?

You know what; I never thought about it like that but now that you’ve said it you just hit the nail on the head!

Times are changing and I think it’s about time we started acting and not just speaking about it.

I wanted this video to send a message to a lot of people: to let them know that it is ok to be different.

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How did you get into music in the first place? Was it always something that resonated in you?

I grew up surrounded by music my entire childhood. My brother was in a Punk band -which I thought was epic and then it made me want to start writing.

Who are the artists you grew up listening to?

I grew up listening to such a diverse genre of artists. NSYNC (no shame), Stevie Wonder; Bob Dylan, Celine Dion and Kiss. It’s such a diverse list but that’s what I love about music.

How important is London as a Muse and city? Are the people of the capital important when it comes to creating music?

London is so artistic. From its buildings to its street art/performers. I think it’s a very inspiring place to be.

So, yeah, I’d definitely say that the people within London hold a major part in being a muse when it comes to writing music.

Wonderful Life and Lions are your previous songs. They appear on your forthcoming debut album. Can you tell us about that and any other songs/themes we might discover?

I’m seriously excited. I was actually in the car with my best friend (like) two days ago and he said: “Will you stop sitting on these songs and just release them!

It’s so frustrating because I just want my music to be out there but I want it to be right. These songs are from the heart and the most honest material I’ve ever written.

I can’t wait for you to hear it!

A Thousand Bonfires was released in 2014 and an E.P. that was well-received. How do you feel, as an artist and person, you have changed since that came out?

I’m not going to lie – when I wrote that record I was suffering from depression, self-harm and the loss of my mum. I was in a very dark place and that reflects in the songs that I wrote. Now, I feel I’m in a really good place and that shows in the music. Even though it still tells stories of what I’ve been through, it has a lighter tone to it. Hope.

What other plans do you have for the rest of this year?

I’m currently touring in Poland which is awesome! I’m also heading out to the Philippines in May to do some writing and then summer – GETTING THIS ALBUM OUT!

You have a big following in Europe and performed a headline show in Poland. Will you be going back to Poland or touring Europe at all?

It’s so crazy! I have no idea how it happened. Poland has been so good to me and I’m completely blessed.

I’d love to head out and visit other places such as Spain, Germany and Italy.

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Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?

You should totally check out my friends LEJON – they are so unique. Also, Sylwia Przybysz – she’s amazing!

What advice would you offer songwriters coming through right now?  

Stay true to yourself and never lose that passion as to why you’re doing this.

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

Firstly, can I just say thank you for taking the time to interview me? It really does mean the world to me.

My favourite song right now is Paris – The Chainsmokers

Thank you, thank you, thank you!


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FEATURE: Rock Is Dead? The New Breed of Guitar Bands



Rock Is Dead?


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IN THIS PHOTO: Black Honey


The New Breed of Guitar Bands


EVERYONE from Kasabian to respected, decent bands has claimed…

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the days of the great guitar-based bands are over. It is true there are fewer original and enduring guitar bands in music. Other genres (like Synth.-Pop) have come into popularity: of the Rock/Alternative bands around, there are a few that manage to subvert expectation and stick in the memory. I have lauded the abilities of Reading’s The Amazons. They created a real modern nugget with Little Something. I am still bowled by its incredible hooks and anthemic nature. Some big music names have criticised the state of modern guitar music but that would be unfair. I have collated twelve acts that, I think, will make a big impact on the music of 2017. Included is a song from each and them and reason why they should be on your playlist.



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Based: Glasgow


The Amazons

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Based: Reading


Black Honey

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Based: Brighton


Dream Wife

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Based: Finland



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Based: Mossley



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Based: New York


Goat Girl

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Based: London


Duke of Wolves

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Based: London


False Heads

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PHOTO CREDIT: Gregory Hesse-Wagner

Based: London



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Based: Cardiff



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Based: London


It is clear there are enough great acts around that give a good name to guitar music. Rock, it seems, is not dead but might just need a bit of a kick. There has been a downturn and dip in the last few years so we just need to promote those new acts that seem capable of bringing the energy and originality back to the form. Here is just a selection of the artists/bands I feel will make a big impact on music this year. It is true there are fewer great guitar bands than there were in years past but Rock is very much…

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ALIVE and kicking.

FEATURE: Chuck Berry: The Legend and the Legacy



Chuck Berry:


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The Legend and the Legacy


THE world is waking up to the news the legendary…

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guitarist and singer Chuck Berry has died. It is the first ‘big’ musician death of 2017 and one that has shocked social media. I guess there was a certain inevitability to the news: he is in his one-hundredth decade of life and has lived a long and rich time. That being said, it is always sad when any great musician dies. It makes one think about what they have given and what they leave behind. I know Berry was working on another album mooted for this year – I wonder how much we will see and if he ever completed it. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Berry grew up in a family of six. Growing up in The Ville (a middle-class area; his father, a sermon, and his family not really fitting into that mould) it was a beginning that would have seemed odd for a working-class black family. Berry performed his first gig in 1941 – whilst a student at high school, we would hear that first burst of talent and promise emerge. His early life was filled with events and troubles. In 1944, he was arrested for armed robbery after holding up three shops. He also carjacked a passing motorist. Berry recalls it differently but the event led him to the Intermediate Reformatory for Young Men at Algoa. Berry was released on his twenty-first birthday but, whilst in prison, did form a singing group and focus on music. By 1950, Berry was supporting his family by taking various jobs; he worked as a factory assistant and, two years previous, welcomed their first child, Darlin Ingrid Berry. Supporting his family through the decade, the new family able to afford a nice white-brick place, Berry cut his teeth working in local bands in St. Louis – as a way to earn extra money and foster his passion for singing. That legendary guitar sound was beginning to take shape. Like all those in the Blues oeuvre; Berry began borrowing licks and styles from some of the greats. Learning techniques from T-Bone Walker and seeing the fantastic musicians coming through at the time: a rich and fascinating experience for a hungry young artist.

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After performing with the Johnny Jonson Trio throughout 1953; Berry was learning Country songs and sounds: quite foreign and new to a mainly black audience. One of the first landmark decisions came when Berry travelled to Chicago in May 1955. There, he met Muddy Walters who put him in touch with Chess Records’ Leonard Chess. Berry’s adaptation of Ida Red showed he was able to tackle Blues and Rock with aplomb – reinventing the song and showing a fine and agile talent. Maybellene is the first real big hit for Berry and went on to sell over a million copies. It reached number one on Billboard magazine’s R&B charts. In June 1956, Roll Over Beethoven reached number twenty-nine and further showcases Berry’s popularity and ability. Throughout the late-1950s, Berry scored multiple chart successes and would perform the greatest of them all – the fantastic and hugely influential, Johnny B. Goode. That song along almost reinvented Rock ‘n’ Roll. A young Elvis Presley would have been listening – you can hear a lot of Chuck Berry in his most empathic moments. We can say Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel shattered music and changed everything – the same can be said for Johnny B. Goode. I am hearing tributes saying how music would not be the same without Berry. Big names from The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. What was most notable about Berry at the time (late-1950s to early-1960s) was the audiences he was bringing in. Being a black artist in America at that time would not have been easy – not that it is now, to be honest! Back then, a lot of Black Blues artists would have been playing to a largely black popularity. Berry managed to transcend racial barriers and reach a white, predominantly affluent audience. Were it not for that widescreen appeal, many argue Berry would not be in the position he was – and able to reach so many people. Certainty, that time was influential when it came to his future career: people were taking notice and starting to fall for this shining, audacious musician.

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Despite acclaim and opportunities, Berry was still falling foul of the law. By 1961, Berry was back in jail: this time for eighteen months. He was imprisoned as a result of sexual intercourse with a fourteen-year-old girl. It seemed like he was losing direction and reverting back to his old ways. Unsurprisingly, his popularity waned during this time. When he was released in 1963, he was able to assimilate back into the music community. British Invasion bands like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles were turning on to Berry’s music and employing some of his components in their best tracks. Certainly, the early Blues sounds of both bands can be traced to Berry’s earliest work. Legendary Surf band Beach Boys incorporated elements of Berry’s Sweet Little Sixteen melody in their hit, Surfin’ U.S.A. Between 1964-1965, Berry released eight singles and that prefaced his most successful period to date: from 1966 to 1969 he released five albums and was a major hit. Being Chuck Berry, things would never run smooth. His performances at the time were defined by erratic behaviour and unreliability. It seemed even musical acclaim and security was not enough to tame a recidivist. No hit singles came from his 1970 album Back Home so a rethink was needed for Berry. With increasingly frequent prison stays and bad behaviour; there was a need to focus and level an artist who was threatening to ruin his career. The novelty song My Ding-a-Ling was released in 1972 – it was his first and only number-one single. That song, despite ‘alternative’ versions and misunderstandings by students at the time, did put him back in the public consciousness. Throughout the 1970s, Berry was touring solidly and bringing his trusty Gibson guitar with him. Whilst Berry was rehearsed and professional on record, the same could not be said of his live performances. There was a series of rotating musicians playing alongside him; sloppy gigs and out-of-tune songs.

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Rock It was Berry’s last album of the 1970s (1979) and was not to be followed until last year’s Chuck – that will be released this year. It is perhaps fitting that an album after such a gap would be posthumous. What I mean is it is such an event on its own: Berry’s death is the showman and legend trying to outdo himself. I am glad he managed to record that album as it would be a shame were it half-complete. I thought he was going to record another album (after that) but maybe I’m wrong. Despite his controversies, troubles and prison spells – you cannot deny the legacy and influence of Chuck Berry. Tracks like Roll Over Beethoven and Johnny B. Goode updated Blues and Rock to speak to new audiences. Reaching both black and white listeners; more accessible and cool to young/high school-age people – broadening it to new age groups and demographics. His natural showmanship and spritzing guitar solos resonated with musicians at the time and, in turn, led them to create some of the world’s finest music. We can debate all we like but The Rolling Stones and The Beatles would not be as renowned as they are were it not for Chuck Berry. He kept the traditions of Blues masters alive but modernised their templates. That swagger, incredible electric riffs and detailed songwriting was a major reason why he was taken to heart. Berry himself explained the reason he became popular was the meshing of white and black cultures. In the period before his rise – the 1950s especially – there was compartmentalisation and musical segregation. Black stations would play black music; white stations white music – genres and artists those races preferred and were brought up on. Berry helped smash such ridiculous barriers and assimilated the people – his music touched all races and creeds; that, in turn, deeply inspired the big acts of the 1960s. Chuck Berry is seen as one of the most iconic guitarists. His songs are the stuff of legend and his perfect music will never be forgotten. It is sad he is no longer with us but his influence will continue to pass down the generations. I have provided a closing playlist: one that brings together Berry’s best and most enduring tracks. As we mourn today we should remember a man who, in spite of hardships and troubles, he managed to give music greater relevance, genius and influence…

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FEW other people have.





Jay Beale


BRISTOL lad Jay Beale is part of the wave of D.I.Y. artists…

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laying down beats and electronics in a bedroom setting. Still based at university; he is creating some of the rawest and honest music around. Listening to his songs and you feel like you’re actually in the room as it’s being recorded. I talk to him about Bristol and the people who influence him. A fan of The Streets; I wondered whether Original Pirate Material – an album fifteen years old – had inspired his music in any way. Beale has met and support Pete Doherty; he is one of the most promising new artists in Bristol right now. He discusses the albums that have influenced him most and how important the music of the early-‘00s is to him. With so many new musicians coming through, I was keen to see what advice he would offer and whether there are any new names he would recommend we investigate.


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

Hey. I’m not bad. Really happy to finally get the E.P. out!

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

Hey. My name’s Jay Beale and I’m a twenty-year-old musician and producer. I used to write mainly Alternative-Rock music. But, in the last six months or so, I’ve delved into more Electronic music. I recently release an E.P., 359, which you can get on the likes of Spotify, iTunes and SoundCloud.

359 is the new E.P. What can you tell us about it and the significance behind that title?

359 is the length of the original demo. of that track (3-minutes-59-seconds). I couldn’t think of a name when I first made it so put that (and ended up keeping it).

Can you tell me how you got into music or what the reason was?

I’ve been interested in music for as long as I can remember. I really can’t remember a specific time when I got into it.

You are a Bristol lad. What is the music scene like there and how has it changed since the 1990s and Trip-Hop, for instance?

There’s always something going on in Bristol, music-wise.

I haven’t really kept up with the music scene there for the last couple years as I’ve been down in Falmouth at uni. Bristol is a great city for art.

Your music borrows from Electronica, New Wave and the legends of British Rock. You have eclectic tastes. Who are the artists you adore and those most influential to you?

I’d say it’s weird, as my music is now very Electronic-based, but I don’t really listen to that much Electronic music. I’m starting to get into it more now – as I’m writing in that genre – but at the moment I listen to Alt-Rock and Hip-Hop a lot more.

How do you get a song down? Is it D.I.Y./bedroom-made or there is any studio work at all?

It’s all bedroom and field-recording. My room (in my student house) is tiny so I actually use one of my housemate’s rooms to record everything.

I didn’t go into the studio once to make this E.P. – I much prefer writing and recording at home.

Whenever I write a song, I have to record it as I’m writing it; I can’t do it any other way. It’s cool as it means every song I write I have a demo. to either work from or develop.

How important are social media and the fans in regards giving you drive and that passion?

I wouldn’t say it gives me any more drive or passion. I love making music and would do it regardless of showing it. That said, it’s nice to be able to write stuff and then share it with people – especially when they like it as I guess it does encourage me to write more.

Can we expect to see a full-length record in the future, perhaps?


Listening to the E.P.’s experimentation and I get hints of The Streets – that sort of Original Pirate Material rawness and field recordings. Is he someone you listened to a lot and how important were British artists of the early-’00s to you?

Yeah, I love The Streets. Original Pirate Material is one of my favourite albums; I definitely take influence from them.

I’ve done a fair bit of field-recording this year: I find it really fun writing and producing with random sounds as I don’t feel any boundaries. I can literally record and add-in (whatever I want) and use effects I wouldn’t usually use. Artists in the early-’00s are a big influence to me, in general. Most of my favourite albums are from around that time.

You have supported Peter Doherty in Brixton. What was that experience like and what is he like to hang with?

It was a definitely an experience. I didn’t really hang with him – was just briefly introduced. I remember he was listening to R.H.C.P. (Red Hot Chili Peppers) when I went up to meet him, which was cool.

London seems like a city set up for you. Can you see yourself moving there or are you settled in Bristol?

Bristol is an amazing city but I think I’d want a change in the future – London’s definitely a possibility.

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

Is This It by The Strokes.

As they’ve both come up here, By the Way and Original Pirate Material would also be up there. My parents’ love this ‘The Chilis’ and played them loads as I was growing up so that album is pretty special to me.

The same goes for Original Pirate Material: I was listening to that record loads as I grew up, as again, my dad would play it.

Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?

Being at uni. studying Music; there are new artists everywhere. It’s great as there’s so much opportunity for collaboration.

Lily Lyons and Charlotte Lloyd-Butler, who both featured on my latest E.P., are definitely ones to watch out for.

What advice would you offer songwriters coming through right now?  

Get stuff out there.

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

A Dream of You and Me – Future Islands


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TRACK REVIEW: Oumou Sangaré – Yere Faga



Oumou Sangaré


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Yere Faga





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Yere Faga is available at:


Soul; Pop; Afrobeat


Bamako, Mali


3rd February, 2017


THE fingers have just come off the keypad where I was…

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adding the final touches to a review of the Scottish Hardcore band, Ray Brower. With nary a moment’s breath, it is to someone who shares no D.N.A. with the band at all – her music and background are completely different. I will introduce my featured artist soon but wanted to look at a few pertinent topics. I have just come from a band that mixes heavy riffs with something cerebral and invigorating. Now, it is in to a different world and music that has a different skin and ideals. I wanted to look, first, at the country of Mali; a bit about Afrobeats and music from the African continent. It is easy looking out at modern music and assuming most of it stems from Britain or the U.S. To be fair, most of the best and most popular sounds come from these nations. If you think about the artists you like most: how many of them have their roots in these countries? Maybe it is a fascination I have with African-based artists but you’d be surprised the derivation and origins of your favourite artists. We never really take the time to think about where a musician comes from and where their lives started. It is all about the music and getting that quick fix. Perhaps modern artists are not interesting enough to warrant exploration – perhaps there is not enough time to get invested. I have reviewed a few African artists throughout the years so it is good to be at the feet of Oumou Sangaré. If one thinks of Mali, if one ever does, you get some names that stand out – those who have made their mark on music. Ali Farka Touré is, perhaps, the most famous artist to hail from Mali. His legacy and impact on African music – and the world in a larger sense – is not to be understated. It would not be fair to say every African artist falls under the ‘World music’ banner – a name given to sounds that are for particular tastes. One can hear a lot of Ali Farka Touré’s influence in modern music and a wave of new Grime, Hip-Hop and chart acts.

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Similarly, little bits of Amadou & Mariam, the Grammy-nominated duo and Salif Keita requires more attention. Whilst a lot of these names might be slightly ‘older’, experienced hands; there is a new, younger breed of Malian performer keeping the tradition alive whilst spreading the messages to the international world. Rokia Traoré, the Victories de la Musique performer is an award-winning songwriter who is worth keeping your eyes on. Not being based in Mali, I am not sure how the country operates and what the scene is like. It is clear Malian music is having a big effect on the western world and being adapted by modern artists. It is not surprising Mali and its ethos has had that resonant effect on artists throughout Europe and North America. Not only do the people place emphasis on community, family and faith: they are a gentler, more spiritual nation whose foundation of love and understanding is something we should all take to heart. In a musical sense, the traditional instruments of the country are easily adaptable and accessible. You get percussive beats that borrow from the land. Often, drumming and beat-making can be achieved by scraps of metal and wood; the instrumentation is more basic with less emphasis on technology and electronics – perhaps what one would expect from African roots. These unique and stunning sounds have been employed by musicians here for years but never really get the credit they deserve.

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Thinking about Oumou Sangaré, and before I talk about Afrobeats, she is going to inspire a lot of musicians here and help bring colour, innovation and power to their work. Before I go on, let me introduce her to you:

The power of Oumou’s voice and the potency of her message remain as strong as ever and, while her sound is rooted deep in the continuity of Malian tradition, Mogoya has a strong new sound. Co-produced by Andreas Unge in Stockholm and by the French production collective A.l.b.e.r.t. (who have worked with among others Air, Tony Allen, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Beck, Franz Ferdinand) in Paris, it draws on a rich musical heritage whilst also looking to the future. “We wanted to emphasise the raw power of Oumou’s voice and songs. We wanted to find a new modernity” says co-producer Ludovic Bruni, one of the three members of A.l.b.e.r.t. with Vincent Taurelle and Vincent Taeger.

On the album, traditional African instruments – the camel n’toni (harp), karignan (metal scraper) and calabash percussion – are augmented by electric guitar, bass, keyboards and synths with Tony Allen on drums. As Oumou puts it, “This time round I wanted to go for more of a modern sound, to satisfy young people in Mali but being careful, all the while, to respect my culture and tradition”. The songs describe what Oumou knows best – human relationships. She addresses difficult topics with incredible frankness – jealousy, ingratitude and betrayal – never afraid to sing about the day-to-day problems faced by African society, particularly women.

Oumou has a high international profile, touring all over the world, collaborating with artists such as Alicia Keys, Tracy Chapman, Bela Fleck and Dee Dee Bridgewater and featuring on the soundtrack of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. She is a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation and has three businesses in Mali – a range of SUVs called ‘Oum-Sang’, a hotel in Bamako and ‘Oumou Sangaré Rice’, grown in her own fields.

She has released five albums on the World Circuit label:  Moussolou, meaning “women” (1990),
Ko Sira (1993), Worotan (1996), Oumou (2003) and Seya (2009).

Music is at the absolute centre of Oumou’s life: “without it I’m nothing and nothing can take it from me” and Mogoya represents an exciting new chapter in her career – something which she approaches with a mixture of boldness, humility and confidence.

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Although Sangaré is no longer living in Mali – she is based in London, I think – she brings her background and familial links to her music. One hears Afrobeat movements in her latest sounds and a genre that is starting to become more prominent in the U.K. Again, it is a side of music that deserves more attention but has found its way into a lot of contemporary Pop and Soul. Think of the legends like Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti (Fela Kuti) and you have a name that is known my most. I shall mention him more but he is, perhaps, the Godfather of Afrobeats and one of its most influential proponents. Younger exponents of the form like Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun (A.K.A. Wizkid) are starting to build foundations and continue the great work done by the likes of Kuti and bringing it to a larger audience. I guess that is why acts like Wizkid and Sangaré (labelled the ‘Songbird of Wassoulou’) are keen to promote African music and Afrobeats. Tiwatope Savage-Balogun, known as Tiwa Savage, is a Nigerian musician mixing their older and new forms of Afrobeats – modifying and incorporating its rich language into his own music. British-Ghanaian artist Papa Kwarne Amponsa plays around Brockley and is another young talent with a big future. If you have not immersed yourself in Afrobeats music; chances are you would have encountered some form of the genre at some time. It is becoming more prominent in the musical lexicon and, because of its adaptable nature and unquestionable prowess, finding eager translators in current music. Tony Allen, who worked with Fela Kuti and drummed for him, has provided percussion for Sangaré on her latest album. I will come to that record more soon but wanted to look at Tony Allen, briefly. My first exposure to him was when he provided sticks for Damon Albarn’s supergroup, The Good, The Bad & the Queen. Their eponymous debut (and lone album) was released in 2007 and was relatively well received by the press. It helped showcase Allen’s unique and influential percussive style – one that has funnelled into a lot of modern bands and artists.

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His influence cannot be understated; bringing his talent to Sangaré’s work is a big coup. He is an African statesman who has had a long and varied career. Thinking about him and songwriters like Sangaré makes me feel more connected with Africa, Mali and genres like Afrobeats. I suppose that is the way we can really get an insight into African cultures and sounds, unless we visit the continent, is through music. If one were to take a trip to somewhere like Mali (or Nigeria), I am sure the experience you got would be very different to listening to British-African artists. The pure, local vibes might seem rather distant to the more polished and professional sounds you find in our acts – that is not to say it is a weak imitation. Sangaré is very true to her upbringing and the sort of music she would have experienced as a younger woman. I’ll park this subject by the roadside but want to pick it back up on the way back. For now, I wanted to mention the aspects of Sangaré that make her stand out. She is a Grammy-winning artist and has been in the music business for twenty-eight years. With so many new musicians unable to survive a couple of years – let alone three decades! – she is a case study of how things should be done. That endurance and tenacity amazes me. As I said, there seems like a planned obsolescence in music: you might survive a few years but then start to fade. The fact Sangaré is looking to enter her fourth decade of music-making is quite an extraordinary feat. Mogoya (meaning ‘people today’) is the new album and one that intrigues me greatly. Given everything I know about her – the way she addresses human emotions and cultures of the world – one detects a slightly cynical interpretation of that title. The way the world is shaping up at the moment – less real and human than ever – makes me wonder whether there was a political inspiration. Certainly, for someone who preaches humanity, equality and love: the way the planet is changing must rile and appal her. It does me and I don’t like human beings half as much she does.

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I’ll return to my original points in the conclusion but wanted to concentrate on a particular, rather niche aspect: Sampha and laudation from contemporary artists. Sangaré has earned her place in the pantheons of current legends: someone who has worked tirelessly since the start to bring the best music to the people. No matter how inventive and evolving an artist is – a Kate Bush, M.I.A. or Björk – it can be quite hard getting patronage from the young generation. Even someone as established and reputable as Sangaré might struggle to get the new, ‘cool’ musicians backing her. I only mention this because Sampha has come out in support of her. He is, in case you don’t know, one of the hottest British artists at the moment. His critically-lauded album, Process, has critics drooling. NME singled its craft and recognition of inner-turmoil – how he has transformed that into something reactive and positive. The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis was impressed by the arrangements and clear identity – not an album that tries to fit into the crowds and copy the herd. The unlikely optimism and grace of the album sat with power and enormous talent. Critics and fans reacted to this and bonded with that sense of catharsis and humanity. One of the standout albums from this year, Sampha is a fine talent we should be keeping our eyes on. The fact he has bonded with Sangaré, is, perhaps no surprise. They both have that spiritual, soulful sound and fine ear for arrangements – able to create such vivid, potent and original music. Both recognise and react to pain and human emotions – albeit, in different ways. It would be great, if there are no current plans, for the two London-based artists to come together and create something special. I could well-imagine Sangaré’s African roots and Afrobeats ideologies fusing with Sampha’s dreamy piano and ethereal motifs. That contrast and perfect parabond will not only connect with both set of fans but unite the factions; draw in new supporters and lead to something genuinely unique.

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It is not only vindication her music is timeless and ever-relevant but a useful conduit into the modern Soul/R&B market. As I say, I hope the two work together more in the future and it would be good to see a Sangaré/Sampha hook-up – a great album that brings their experiences and cultures together. London is their common base and a city that is endlessly inspiring and busy. Grammy-winning Sangaré is vibing from a city whose people and tribulations are inspiring creative spurts. More widely, the contrasts and tribes of the world are compelling – the people and shared experiences; aspects of regret, love and nature. One of the good things, among many, of reviewing is the spectrum of artists I experience. More often than not, I will look at an act quite new and sapling – starting out and throwing down their early thoughts. With Sangaré, I get to experience a musician with years’ experience under her belt. The fact she has been given that Grammy honour and spiked the imagination of Sampha – the future is going to be very busy, exciting and promising. I shall talk about her latest single soon, but before I do, wanted to express my thoughts on Sangaré’s key strengths and attributes. In every review and from many lips; it is her cadence, delivery and personality that infuse her songs with so much vivacity and nuance. It may seem like a simple dramatic consideration, but music is an artform. Whether you see it as a means of self-expression or, those Luddite Pop clones a way of earning financial reach-around – it is a performance-medium that demands a certain physicality and soulfulness. It does not matter whether you are a Metal slasher or a contemplative Folk artist: conveying true emotions and connecting with the listeners is paramount. For an artist who looks at the wider world and talks about humans: delivering her messages – and ensuring they connect – requires quite a discipline and unique set of skills. What we get from Sangaré is a true performer who expresses so many different ideas and emotions through her music.

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It is hard to easily define and explain how she interprets music but you get a songwriter whose words tap into shared experiences and feelings. When it comes to translating them and getting the words out there – it is done with an enormous amount of consideration, ability and affinity. Perhaps not surprising from someone who has been in music so long. One learns a certain working methodology and learns from years of live performance. Sangaré is a performer whose ability and connective properties emanate from her roots and soul – not something one could necessarily teach to another. Others have commentated on her range of movements – vocally and physically – and the way lines and sentences are transformed from written syllables to fluid, flowing birds – beautiful, agile and evocative. Yere Faga is the latest single from Sangaré and one that shows just what a performer she is. I would love to see the song performed on stage because, on record, it evokes so many different possibilities and inspired daydreaming and reflection. This is her first material in eight years and that seems like a rather appropriate timeframe. Eight years ago, the world was a much more optimistic and promising time. In terms of a U.S. President, we were witnessing history: Barack Obama becoming America’s first black leader. There was terrorism and evil – as there will always be – but there seemed to be greater stability in the governments of the U.S. and U.K. Forward the clock to 2016/’17 and things are vastly different. We are in a place where a dictator is in The White House: almost a North Korean regime in terms of tyrannical mandates and odious selfishness. Donald Trump is someone whose own agenda and will seems to supersede the desires of the people. That inalienable right for freedom and liberty has been skewed, rather monstrously, as a precursor to exclusionary impositions and racist, bigoted viewpoints. Feeding the will of the worst kind of American – making the country “great again” seems to mean returning to the swamp – is the way things are going down. Here, there is so much tension, post-Brexit.

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In a strange way, the world is more inspirational and creativity-provoking than it has been in recent years. Musicians are witnessing the disenfranchisement and balkanisation and responding with something more productive and hopeful. Sangaré is someone who has always commentated on humans and the way we live: those threads and things that connect us all. Naturally, one looks at a song like Yere Faga and extrapolates a lot from it. The blunders and horrors of the modern world cannot help but infect any new song of the moment. For someone who is so connected with the world around her; consciously or not, some of that goes into the music. What excites me about Oumou Sangaré is her sense of inspiration and purpose. She has never sounded as relevant and passionate as she does now. Such an experience artist might sound a little jaded and predictable so many years down the line. Sangaré is always changing and developing her music. No two albums really sound alike so it is no shock her latest material is quite a refreshing work. Sangaré is going to be busy performing this year and has hooked up with A.l.b.e.r.t. and the Indie label Nø Førmat! The former is the crack French musical team who have worked with the likes of Beck, Air and Franz Ferdinand. The latter is a French label that she has worked with before – quite a welcomed return. They are home to Blick Bassy and ALA.NI – the latter is someone I have interviewed before. It is a tight and efficient combination of talent that is where Sangaré needs to be right now. With that reputable label and authoritative production team backing her; her current work is, debatably, her strongest. It will be interesting to see how the new song and album (Mogoya) is translated on the stage and how she follows it. I have theorised how influential modern politics is to her work. You cannot help but immerse yourself in the music and summon certain images and avenues. Make sure you go and see Sangaré perform live is you get the chance.

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I am keen to review Sangaré’s latest song, so, before I do, wanted to give a nod to her ‘outside’ work. In addition to being an experienced songwriter; she is a U.N.E.S.C.O. Prize-winner & U.N. ambassador; she’s a tireless advocate for women’s rights – campaigning for decades against polygamy, child marriages and the oppression of women in Mali. There is almost an Angelina Jolie-esque sense of responsibility and protectionism in Sangaré. Being from Mali, she would have seen how women are oppressed and seen as second-class citizens. Few can live around that – and be subject to it – without feeling the need to take action and stand up. It is not just people from developing nations that feel oppression but it is a lot more prevalent there. I am not going into the reasons why but feel more people in the developed world should do more. Whether you see discrimination and oppression at home or abroad, we are in an age where it is easier to have your voice heard. Social media and the Internet provides an open-to-all parapet for humans to express their opinions – a lot of them can be vexatious and trolling. In an age where there is blatant oppression and imbalance; how many of can remain silent? Sangaré is concerned with the plight of women in Mali and keen to champion women’s rights. If more musicians became involved in the kinds of movements I feel we can all see positive change and greater unity. Music is a hugely influential and visible presence. It is not false representation or dishonest using music as a way of communicating problems around the globe. Away from the love songs and samey songs; there are very few expressing something like women’s rights and discrimination. Mali is a nation where women are seen as inferior; children forced to marriage and all manner of ill practices continue unabated. One can say many African, poorer nations have always been like this. Just because it has been going on for decades (centuries in some cases) does not mean we should stand aside. Working with the U.N., Sangaré is keen to vocalise her disgust at the disgrace and feculent events she has witnessed. This kind of backwards, Neolithic thinking is not just reserved to developing nations. The Third World is our world: we are all part of the same planet and need to show that. There are horrific occurrences in every country and I often feel annoyed more musicians do not use their opportunity to raise these issues to the masses – at the very least, broaden their horizons. Depeche Mode, in their latest single, are asking Where’s the Revolution? It is a question that needs answering and one Sangaré would be keen to project, I am sure.

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One is able to freely sample all of Oumou Sangaré’s work online. In terms of difference and development; I would say songs like Yere Faga is a step beyond and stronger than anything she has released for a while. It has that core sound and all the threads one would expect. Her voice sounds at its peak whilst the musicianship and composition are more alive and vibrant than ever. It seems she is reacting to the world around her and has created a song that seems to respond to the times we live in but, more generally, it discusses human relationships and Sangaré’s traditional topics are all laid out. If you want a good idea of where she came from and the music available; I would suggest seeking out Mossolou (released in 1989). It shows how she started out and the sort of songs that got her name known. It is a six-track collection that crackles with possibilities, colours and depth. Ko Sira and Mogoya are albums that followed and expand upon Sangaré’s earliest work. If you are looking for something fairly recent; perhaps Seya would be the best option. It is an album that means ‘joy’. It was her first release in five years (released in 2009) and presented that world of sound she is renowned for. I would say Sangaré has always been exceptional but I have noticed, since Seya, she has hit new heights. Perhaps it is the new instruments and ideas she is playing with; some of the collaborations but there does seem to be something extraordinary happening. It is wonderful hearing an artist who has managed to remain consistent and inventive without losing any momentum – in fact, she seems to have gained it.

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Yere Faga is the new track and one that has been garnering a lot of praise and attention. As the lyrics are not in English – I cannot see any lyrics online – so one has to extrapolate and learn from the vocals. It is a dynamic and racing opening that has those Tony Allen beats coming through. When Sangaré comes to the microphone, her voice is at its most direct and luscious. The way the heroine’s voice weaves and presents is exceptional. The phrasing and accentuation make certain syllables jump whilst overs are whispered; some are more precise and bold. The beats keep firm and strong but do not deviate too much to begin. It is a typically assured and strong performance from Tony Allen and one that perfectly matches the song. I was caught by the tease and funkiness of the percussion which manages to be simple but says so much. Sangaré is a vixen and Siren whose voice has that alluring quality and strength. A.l.b.e.r.t. bring that modernity to the vocals and update Sangaré’s voice. She sounds at her freshest and most direct within Yere Faga. It is a song that starts off with that alluring hip-shake and tight performance. As things develop, you become hooked by the composition-vocal blend. If one wants a translation of the lyrics, I am sure there will be one included with the album, Mogoya. It has been eight years since she released an album and you can hear all that passion and determination shine through. The lead-off single continues to inspire and intrigue in the early stages. Our heroine’s voice is full of life but seems to touch on a range of emotions – loss and deceit; the bonds that tie us and the things we all have in common. Those who are not used to African/Mali music are eased in by a production and performance that is accessible and universal. The beats continue on their quest whilst Sangaré’s voice multiplies and lift into the chorus. You get a breezy blast of multi-tracked voices that provides a sweetness and rush. It is a festival of vocals and sounds that all melt together in that moment.

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One hears a bassline emerge: one that snakes and slithers with dance and meaning; it is a taut and focused line that perfectly backs the vocal and blends with percussion. As things continue, that energy and colour never fade. There is always a movement and physicality to the track which means the listener becomes directly involved. You cannot escape the smile and persistence of Yere Faga. It looks at us as humans and the range of differences and emotions – such a rich and vivacious track. You do not need to know, necessarily, what is being sung as the emotion and feeling of the song are much more important. The heroine lets her voice dip and calms slightly for a second. The atmosphere and mood come down to allow the bass to come up-front; there is a little fleck of electric guitar and a backing vocal comes through. It is a pivotal juncture that allows one to breathe and the song to regroup. So much commitment, energy and passion have been laid out, you need that pause to collect yourself before the next wave. That does come, and with it, nuance and new ideas from Yere Faga. Sangaré is always in command willing to try new ideas. The track never rests on its laurels and has that sense of unexpected and changeable. At every stage, one is immersed in the sound and very human delivery. That voice is as rich and pure as they come: never has it sounded quite as striking and revealing as it does here. Similarly, all the traditional instruments and sounds remain – those one would have enjoyed in Sangaré’s earlier albums. The main difference one hears is a more polished production and a very modern representation of Afrobeats/Malian traditions. That does not betray its roots, more provide is a sense of contemporary currency. Making it easy to understand for new listeners – whilst not alienating those existing – it is a wonderful pairing (between artist and producers).

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Even before the half-way mark, you are still entranced by the composition which remains simple but packs so much in there. That bass-and-percussion unity continues solidly and gives the songs it strength and discipline. As Sangaré lets her voice rise and breathe, you get little stabs and lightning-flash of electric guitar. It is not a long sound but one that comes in sharp and adds a little cut and teeth to proceedings. All of this together and one experiences something quite special. Yere Faga is a study in simplicity and talent over complexities and false economy. You do not need to pack everything into a song to make it memorable and effective. With a few instruments and that lead voice, you have a song that makes you dance and think at the same time. The hips are kept motivated and engaged but the mind presses for interpretation and answers. Knowing the origins of people and humans – what connects and divides them – one can get their own impressions and ideas from the song. Yere Faga always keeps you hooked and intrigued as it races, darts and dances between the notes. What one finds – as the song comes to the latter stages – is the emphasis on the instruments and vocals. The electric guitar becomes more involved and plays a bigger role. You get those Funkadelic-esque little spritzes but it is more fleshed-out and rounded. The bass seems more alive and volumised whilst the vocal, once more, shows something new. You cannot deny the sense of entrance and fascination within the song. Yere Faga keeps you guessing but, in a way, its meanings are clear. It is that music and vocal that are changeable and evolving. Sangaré remains in the spotlight and that gravitational force that everything else revolves around. Another sensational and mesmeric song from one of the music world’s true treasures.

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I’ll come back to my original points in concluding this review but want to look ahead at Sangaré’s 2017. Her album is released on 19th May and she will be taking to the stage at Scala three days previous. That is one of those London venues, like the Roundhouse or Union Chapel that has that incredible presence and reputation. I am not sure whether there are any more London dates planned or U.K. dates confirmed. Given the subject matter and prescience of Mogoya; there are going to be people all around who would love to see Sangaré in the flesh. This year is an exciting one for new music so I would expect some imminent announcements relating to Sangaré’s touring plans. That Scala gig will be amazing. It is such an iconic and fantastic space: a perfect time of year that will bring bodies and love into the venue. I will try and get down there but will certainly check her out sooner rather than later. In assessing an artist like Oumou Sangaré, one cannot define in purely in musical terms. Motivation and activism are not a result of poverty and disadvantage – it is the duty and right or every civilian, regardless of economic and social stature, to ingrain themselves in retaliation. I know continents like Africa are more susceptible to occurrences, we here, might find abhorrent and inhuman. It is not the fault of the majority but a largely male minority who have a stranglehold on the most vulnerable. The women of countries like Mali are fearful to stand up to the oppressive lash of their male counterparts. Child marriages – if it happened here there would be a national outcry – seem to go largely unreported and anonymous. We here cannot comprehend the appalling reality many women have to live under – not just grown-ups but children. Sangaré has escaped a nation that, despite a massive amount of love and wonderful people, is struggling to contain issues like polygamy is still rife. Sangaré campaigns against it and keen to shine a spotlight on the issues in her home nation.

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Sangaré has such a high international profile, I am not sure how she manages to balance all her responsibilities. She has collaborated with artists like Alicia Keys and Tracy Chapman and featured on the soundtrack of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Aside from her ambassadorial role for the U.N., as part of their Food and Agricultural Organisation, is keen to aid those less fortunate – a humanitarian who has inspired countless others. She also has three businesses in Mali – a range of S.U.V.s called Oum-Sang; a hotel in Bamako and Oumou Sangaré Rice – grown in her own fields. Since 1990’s Moussolou – through 1993’s Ko Sira; Worotan in 1996; Oumou (2003) and Sya (2009) – we have seen the rise and development of one of music’s true icons. The finest female singer to hail from the African continent: music is at the heart of everything Sangaré does. She has said it herself: “without it I’m nothing and nothing can take it from me”. When speaking about Mogoya, and its new techniques and ideas, she went on to say: “It was new for me because my music has never had this kind of arrangement and sound before. I’ve been totally in the tradition for years now so to get out of that and have a look around elsewhere was a total pleasure”. It has been genuinely eye-opening discovering someone who puts music and people at the heart of her agenda. I’ll briefly wrap-up my early points but want to go back to that U.N. role and how Sangaré aims to make the world a better place. Of course, Mali is a nation few of us think about and even know where it is – officially the Republic of Mali, it is a landlocked country in West Africa. Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa. It does not matter if you were born there or only visit: if you see and hear about things like child marriages and polygamy you would not be able to shake that off. Even if Sangaré did not have that U.N. platform, she would still be an advocate of equality and peace.

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Sangaré is someone who sees disturbing and worrying practices and cannot stand by and see it all happen. Not only does her passion and determination help make real change – it will compel other musicians to become more involved in society and important causes. Maybe that is just as vital as the music itself: causing someone to look at the world around them and make the world better and safer. Nearly three-decades into an extraordinary career, one would assume Sangaré would slow things down and delegate a few responsibilities. If anything, the unfettered and rampant poverty – both monetary and morally – is an impetus to become busier and more active. Let’s hope others do learn from her example and help eradicate some of the planet’s ills. I will wrap it up but will take another look at three things: Mali and Afrobeats music; getting nods from legends and new artists alike; performance and delivery as a thing to consider for all artists. I have given a list of some of the artists who have put Malian music on the map. At the moment, there are a few local musicians who could translate into other continents and bring that incredible culture to the mainstream. We have all heard of Ali Farka Touré and what he has brought to music. There is no one particular ‘sound’ when it comes to Malian music. Perhaps the compositions and instrumentation is a little simpler – percussion that utilises metals and found objects – and something that mixes tribal movements and a real flavour of Africa. The messages, often spiritual and religious, are backed by incredibly evocative vocals. It is a country we only really hear about through established acts. Sangaré is someone who makes me want to delve more into Mali and the beautiful, rich culture is has provided. We, here, are probably more used to Afrobeats and some of the new Urban artists sprinkling into their music. London seems at the forefront of this movement.

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In the coming years, I predict we will hear a lot more African music make its way into commercial music. The mainstream is becoming stale and stagnated so something needs to happen. Experimentation is occurring but the results are rather mixed. Even if it is a case of promoting Afrobeats more or encouraging new artists to borrow more from African movements. Genres like Rap and Hip-Hop – where many of its patrons are of African-American decent – feel that connection and familial tie. Maybe it is a result of rigid tastes and proclivities but modern British music is not as all-encompassing and bold as I would like. I am not suggesting a wave of new musicians pour over African sounds and incorporate it heavily. As the incredible Trip-Hop artists of the 1990s proved: employing some African elements, gingerly at times, can lead to some provocative and stunningly powerful music. My greatest hope is the spirit and ethos of Mali/Africa’s musicians are the biggest influence. That desire to connect with your fellow man and addresses the troubles and triumphs around you. I feel too many new acts are obsessed with their own lives and screw-ups. The way Oumou Sangaré has been established since the start of her career. She is at a stage where her music needs to be taken to heart and studied. It is having an effect on her established fanbase but recruiting new supporters to the fold. Sampha, as mentioned, is a convert and someone who, one suspects, has a similar approach to music. He is one of the conscientious artists who not only talks about their own lives but is concerned with that is happening in the world. Not only does Sampha’s support mean Sangaré will reach a new generation – invaluable ensuring young listeners get to witness a very special talent. Tony Allen plays on Sangaré’s latest album and brings his expertise and authority to the music. That distinguished and established percussion adds a lot of story, heat and character to the record.

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Having that blend of young and older musicians throwing their weight behind the music is the result of an artist who speaks for everyone and wants people to be inspired by her music. It is easy to be seduced and affected by Yere Faga. It is a song that excited and appeals upon first listen but elicit different responses the more you hear it. I will follow her work and see how it progresses over the years. It is a very strange time to become a musician. There is a lot going on in society and politics but I find few artists reflecting the troubles we all see. Maybe it takes a deft touch or keen mind to appropriately document the division around the world but I feel there is a general apathy and selfishness. Oumou Sangaré is someone who could lead to some real changes and positivity in music. She is based in the U.K. and perfectly placed to motivate many of our young musicians. If you have not discovered her music and know where she comes from, I suggest spending a bit of time getting to know her. She is a fascinating artist who is a refreshing change to the rather boring and shallow artists we can get these days. Mogoya is her latest album and one of the finest things she has put her name to. It is a masterful and compelling work that suggests she has…

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MANY more years ahead.


Follow Oumou Sangaré

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Twitter: (World Circuit)




FEATURE: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and 1967: The Beginning of the Revolution



Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and 1967:


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The Beginning of the Revolution


THAT subtitle might seem like a bit of a bold statement…

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but there are two reasons for doing this feature. For one, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band will turn fifty in June. It is scary to think of anything turning fifty, not least a remarkable album that seems as fresh today as it did back then. I have been a little down on music and struggle to find anyone that innovative and progressive. Maybe most genres have been covered and, like a scientific breakthrough, it is much harder breaking ground and doing something genuinely startling. In fact, I was struggling to think of the last album that came out of nowhere and knocked me back – maybe Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly back in 2015. That album, to me, spoke for a black generation competing against police brutality, oppression and discrimination. Instead of producing a series of angry, aimless songs: what we got is a transcendent, epoch-defining statement from a stunning lyricist and performer. Since then, there have been remarkable albums but few that really take the breath. I was thinking about an album like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and a period when a mini-Big Bang sort of occurred. The Beatles’ eighth studio album was, in effect, one of the first real concept albums – it spent fifteen weeks at number one and elevated Pop to masterful, unseen heights. You can toss the hyperbole and sentiments around all you want: its legacy and impact cannot be underestimated. It scooped four Grammy Awards and seen as one of the most influential albums of the 1960s. Before I explain the importance of the album – and the other works that came out in 1967 – I wanted to give some backstory and insight into the record itself. Me and my family are divided when it comes to declaring our favourite Beatles album. My mum (and dad to an extent) will always favour Revolver: the psychotropic touches and beautiful melodies; that focused and perfect album that covers so much ground and contains no weak spots. I always root for 1965’s Rubber Soul. To me, it is the beginning of The Beatles’ rise and their all-originals album that saw them progress and take brave new steps.

Perhaps there are not the biblical moments like Tomorrow Never Knows or Taxman; the elegance and tenderness of Here, There and Everywhere but there are some incredible songs. I love the youthfulness and the breeziness of Drive My Car and Norwegian Wood; the sway and seduction of Michelle – even the underrated and Lennon-hated chorus of Run for Your Life. I can see an argument for every Beatles album, to be fair. There is a lot of affection for Abbey Road but in terms of importance and landmark; Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is The One. By August 1966, The Beatles had retired from touring and were holidaying – recovering and recharging the batteries. The album began with McCartney and an idea of a Victorian brass band: a sort of marching troupe that had that olde-world carnival sound and something quirky and whimsical. It built from there and given impetus by the before-album recording of the twin masterpieces Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane. That double A-side (the best in history) showed what form the four were in. The fact there were not included on the album shows what a standard the Liverpool group had at the time – just imagine if the album did have those two peerless tracks on it!? It is an Art-Rock album and another creative step from the group. Following the romantic and personal albums like Rubber Soul to the more experimental and daring RevolverSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band brought all that together and pushed the envelope even more. Everything about the album sounds radical and foreshadowing. Few bands, at that time, would dare to employ a forty-piece orchestra or have that ominous, endless piano note at the end of A Day in the Life. That album cover – from a band who created stunning covers for Abbey Road and their eponymous record – topped all of that with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band. It has been dissected for decades and remains one of the most parodied and stunning album covers ever. It was not just the visual aspects that were at their peak. The production and musicians hired for the recording sessions were immense. Aside from that orchestra, just listen to all the instruments and sounds in that album. The double-side-release transformed music and showed what was truly possible.

Recording the album between 1966 and 1967, it grew out of the experimentation and energy of Revolver – almost a continuation in a lot of ways. It was at this time Paul McCartney was establishing himself as The Beatles’ dominant creative force. This dynamic and struggle helped lead to the dissent and tension that would begin for The Beatles – that downward spiral that ended in Let It Be’s sloppy and fraught sessions. That golden time for the band would crystallise in an album that was one of the more harmonious and all-inclusive. George Harrison started to become more confident as a songwriter – Within Without You was his only composition but one of the finest he had ever penned. What is remarkable (among other things) about Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is it looks to the future but is concerned with capturing the spirit of the time. That Summer of Love/freedom vibe was wafting in the air like a delirious perfume. Because of that, there is a general vibe of unity and brotherhood; frequent drug references/terms (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, although misinterpreted, was seen as a paen to L.S.D.; With a Little Help from My Friends has that dope-reference cheekiness) came in and there was a definite scent of the 1960s. Not all the songs were as easy and kicked-back. Fixing a Hole has its legends and background – a man that turned up at McCartney’s house, having a breakdown, was brought to the studio and sat in the corner where he promised to be quiet – and stems from that old analogy (a hole in the road where the rain gets in). Getting Better has that optimistic McCartney verse that is then counterbalanced by Lennon’s cynical “Can’t get no worse” interjection – a typical slice of downbeat humour as McCartney recalled. It showed the contrasting personalities of the songwriters but it much more than that – listening to the drone lines and the guitar work through that track! Another example of the band reinventing the wheel and doing what had rarely been done.

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That first time had that blend of humour and fantastical with more serious and introspective. McCartney’s title track introduced the ring-leader, Billy Shears (Ringo Starr) and welcomes people into the ‘show’ – the start of the concept and the acts for the evening. You get those trippy/1960s’ tracks like With a Little Help with My Friends but something like She’s Leaving Home. That song is the domestic drama that sees the daughter flying the nest having lived there for so many years. The way they are interspersed and programmed is amazing: one hears the bookends of flight and fancy (Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite completes things) and a nice balance of emotional and spirited. The second side kicks off with that Harrison composition: When I’m Sixty-Four and Lovely Rita are two traditional English pieces that could only come from McCartney. Showing his gifts as a character writer and observational lyricist; both songs have that step and energy with lyrics that paints pictures and raise smiles. Good Morning Good Morning (Lennon’s baby) recalls the experimentation sentiments of Revolver and showcases the ability and consistency Lennon possessed at this time – although his contributions are fewer than, say, Revolver. That concept piece is reprised (penultimate) and that leads to the swansong, A Day in the Life – but more on that later.

You can dissect the song and each moment to find such depth and talent within. You get Ragtime and Music Hall in McCartney’s When I’m Sixty-Four; Psychedelia in Lennon’s Good Morning Good Morning – it has unusual 5/4, 4/4 and 3/4 time signatures – and Indian mysticism in Within You Without You. Lovely Rita is Baroque and fairground waltz in other moments. There is this competing movement of Summer of Love/Flower Power and ostensibly British values. McCartney’s songwriting borrows from George Formby and artists of that oeuvre whilst Lennon dips more into the sounds of sounds of The East and experimental sides. McCartney was no slouch with regards experimentation but the two songwriters showed their different sides throughout. There is charm and brilliance together with seriousness and the epic. It is an album whose two sides are different in sound – the first side being strongest in my view – but both hangs together superbly. It is that Sgt. Pepper suite and idea that gives it the hook and centre: you follow the concept from start to finish: all the characters and drama; the love, romance and mind-melting drugs. It captures all the movements, spirit and life at the time. It is a timeless album that is at-once The Beatles but represents everyone. Completing that album is that extraordinary, multi-part epic, A Day in the Life. It is a combination of Lennon’s lyrics and input with brilliant McCartney interjection. Lennon, looking at the news, T.V. and film gained inspiration for the themes sung in the song – holes in Blackburn, a film about the war; politician blowing his mind out in a car etc. – whilst McCartney provides that aside: waking up and falling out of bed; dragging a comb across his head, etc. That dreamy, come-on (“I’d love to turn you on”) follows before the strings rise and the atmosphere gets heavy. It is a song impossible to decompose and properly understand: a sensational experience and aural revelation that makes good use of that forty-piece orchestra – all culminating in that slammed piano note at the very end (McCartney, Lennon; Starr and Mal Evans (road manager) all hitting that E major chord).

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Many can claim different years in music seemed to define the art. I argue 1994 is a time when music peaked whilst overs see 1979 as pivotal. I can see a lot of validity for those who bat for 1967. Not only was the world’s biggest band at their very peak: something was happening in the world that, today, seems foreign. Summer of Love was happening this year and, instead of being an excuse to smoke dope and get together – it resonated with musicians who created some of the best music we have seen. Whilst The Beatles encompassed the movement more directly than The Velvet Underground: their album with Nico was renowned for its experimentation and bold lyrics – looking at drug use, prostitution and sexual deviancy. Critics at the time ignored it completely – maybe it was too raw and antithesis to the free spirit and come-together vibes of the time. Perhaps too dark and controversial: it is an album that was given huge retrospective acclaim; one of the greatest albums ever. Lou Reed’s exceptional songwriting and the dynamic between the band – Nico adding those exotic and unique vocals – makes it an album that keeps on revealing truths all these years down the line. Psychedelia, cosmic masterpieces from Cream (Disraeli Gears) and The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Axis: Bold as Love) was a peak for 1960s guitar music – titans of the form showing just how iconic and talented they were. Both those albums are deep and rich with power, emotion and potency. Established British bands like The Kinks and The Who delivered early-career masterpieces. The former brought us Something Else whilst The Kinks gave us The Who Sell Out. Pink Floyd – not to be outdone and ignored when it comes to Psychedelia – produced the sublime The Piper at the Gates of Dawn – whilst Dylan continued to craft exquisite albums – John Wesley Harding a faultless record that contained All Along the Watchtower (Hendrix latching onto it and producing that immense cover). The quality and contrasts of 1967 can be distilled into two albums: Captain Beefheart’s mad, bad and dangerous Safe as Milk; Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Leonard Cohen.

Maybe I am being wistful and subject to nostalgia – despite the fact I wasn’t born – but see 1967 as the year music really hit its stride. In a way, it was the explosion that led to the brilliant music that followed. How many great albums of the 1970s – 1990s would have occurred was it not for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or The Velvet Underground & Nico?! Not only did the adjacent and concurring love movement leading to some natural (and unnatural!) highs but the support between musicians was extraordinary. With The Beatles putting out that experimental masterpiece: others were looking at them and following suit; pushing their music and doing things that has never been done before. The music of 1967 has a few weak albums but, by and large, it is quality, innovation and evolution. If you consider the 1970s as the best decade for music you’d have to ask whether it would be as strong were it not for bands like The Beatles. I wanted to commemorate (a bit early) the fiftieth birthday of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as the moment music was really born – it changed and grew into something that has endured and inspired this far down the tracks. Whilst many fans of The Beatles would argue there are better albums than Sgt. Pepper’s’; there are none more important and relevant. I still favour Rubber Soul and would put Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band below that and Abbey Road. I adore the thing but do not get the same feeling I get from Rubber Soul. That said, I acknowledge there is a lot more to love and obsesses over (with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band). The album is preparing for its big birthday and, in three months, will hit that big 5-0. Scary to consider but a timely reminder of how stunning and important 1967 was. I would love to see something happen like the Summer of Love and a real explosion in fantastic music. Whilst it might not hit the same quality and timelessness as 1967-made albums; we need to see something that gives music a much-needed vitality and movement. We could learn from the example of 1967 and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and rebel against the scary world in which we live. If we all joined up and created some counter-cultural expression of love and togetherness; that could, in turn…

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CHANGE the music world for the better.






I have known Surrey-based artist Bee for a long time now…

and am always amazed by her strength and determination. She has gone through some hard time but prevailed; been driven by that love for music – bolstered by the support of her friends and family. Circles is a song she conceived a long time but has just been released. The reception from fans and new followers has been amazing and showcases a special, passionate voice in the music world. I was keen to ask Bee how she’s matured and changed since her early days; the artists and albums that have gone into her own music and whether she has aspirations to release an album soon. She discusses the music video for Circles and what it feels like knowing the song it out there. I ask whether she thinks women have to fight harder to be recognised and the acts she is tipping for success. It is a revealing and frank interview from a young talent who is going to have a promising and successful future.


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

Hey, Sam, it’s been amazing! I released my new single and have been busy celebrating, haha!

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

Hi. I’m Bee. I’m a Folk-Pop singer-songwriter from Surrey and I’ve just released my new single, Circles! I’ve been songwriting and gigging for the last few years and it’s my passion. I play piano, guitar and ukulele – and I’d describe my songs as being from the heart.

I have been following your music for a while and love tracks such as Off with Their Heads. How would you say you’ve changed as a songwriter the last couple of years?

I suppose I’d have to say I’ve come to love and accept my music more. I used to constantly compare myself to other songwriters and fear judgement. But now, I see the importance of my individuality and I think my music reflects that.

Circles is another song I love and one, I believe, you are filming a video for at the moment?

Yes, of course! The song has now been released and can be found on all major online retail outlets, e.g. iTunes, Spotify etc., and the video will be released in the next couple of weeks.

Circles was actually one of the first songs I ever wrote – a long time ago now! I was stuck at music school and I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going.

All I knew was that I wanted to pursue music but everything I did seemed to go wrong – and Circles reflects that feeling of two-steps-forwards, one-step-back but knowing the hard work is needed to get to where you want to be.

Listening to the song, I hear soulful tones and a voice that carries a lot of emotion and passion. Who were the vocalists who inspired you young and the singers you follow now?

I have a huge range of singers who inspired me such as Norah Jones, Katie Melua and Carole King – who I grew up listening to – and now artists such as Ed Sheehan, Mumford & Sons; Gabrielle Aplin and London Grammar.

But, really, I try not to be like anyone else!

The last couple of years have been quite difficult for you but you are back in the studio. Does it feel good to be recording again and how have the events of the last year/two affected your songwriting and mentality towards music?

There’s been a huge amount of change for me over the last couple of years. I’ve been in and out of music and trying to find my way – which is another reason why I wanted Circles to be my first release this year as it’s really been how I’ve felt. As an artist, I’ve found the confidence to release my music to the world and realised it’s my truest passion. That and the importance of being true to yourself: not caring what other people think! Music is such an integral part of my life and who I am. I lost a part of myself without it. I just hope other people connect to my music, too!

Have you got any gigs planned for the coming weeks or later in the year?

There are a few things in the pipeline yet to be announced! But, expect some exciting events.

I am excited by the prospect of future material. Do you see yourself releasing an E.P. or album? Can we see a Bee record very soon?

I have another three songs all recorded already and I’m planning on releasing them this year as well!

So, there are lots of exciting things to look forward to and I can’t wait to share them all! Then my dream is to release a full-length album hopefully next year – so watch this space!

You are also exceptional when covering other songs and give them a very personal touch. Are you working on any new covers or sticking to original material?

I’ve recently been sticking to my own material but I’ve got plans for some cover videos to come out soon!

Looking back at your time in music, what have been your fondest memories to date?

Recording my music video for Circles has got to be my highlight.

I worked really hard on the dance choreography and the feeling of putting my pointe shoes back on was incredible; just doing what I love – performing. I can’t wait to release it!

There is often talk, in music media for example, that there are fewer opportunities for female artists – women have to work harder to get the same attention as men. Have you experienced this at all and feel there is an imbalance in the industry?

I have been fortunate not to have experienced this but, unfortunately, we see imbalances in every sector of society. It’s an issue that’s close to my heart and I’d love to be able to make a difference with.

As you are recording and planning head, are there any dreams and ambitions, as an artist, yet to be ticked? Any countries you’d love to perform in or a dream collaboration in mind?

Of course! There is so much left for me to achieve!

A world tour is a big dream of mine and especially to perform on the main stage at Glastonbury Festival. My dream collaboration would be with Ed Sheeran: I love his music and his authenticity and it would be incredible to perform with him.

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

The three albums that pop into my head immediately are…


Maroon 5 – Songs About Jane. I used to play it on repeat when it came out and it’s still one of my all-time favourites.

Mumford & Sons – Babel. The lyrics and musicality of this album blew me away. I connected to it on so many levels and I adore it.


Hozier – Hozier. This was such a great album, I went and saw Hozier perform it live at the O2 Academy in Brixton and it was one of my favourite concerts. His voice is so raw and his songs are so full of emotion.

Are there any new acts out there you recommend we check out?

I’m a big fan of Billie Marten – such a beautiful voice, so if you’ve not yet listened to her album, then I’d definitely recommend you check it out.

Another great artist is Sam Morrow – with his fearless lyrics and raw raspy voice.

Is there any advice you’d give to upcoming songwriters?

Don’t be afraid of what other people think! Be true to yourself and you can’t go wrong – people connect with authenticity.

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

This is one of my all-time favourite songs; the lyrics are phenomenal:

Mumford & Sons – White Blank Page, please!


Follow Bee

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TRACK REVIEW: The Updraft Imperative – Luna



The Updraft Imperative


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Luna will be available 28th March


Christian-Rock; Alternative


Brisbane, Australia


THIS is the fourth time (I think) I am with the Brisbane-based…

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Christian-Rock band. In the first review for the band, when assessing their debut album, Chair; I was impressed by the quality and sound of the music: far away from what I expected; not what you’d call ‘typical Christian-Rock’. My previous exposure – like a lot of people, I guess – comes from television and media examples; the odd band here and there that would be described as Christian-Rock. The music being played (by these bands) is defined by its optimistic and faith espousal: never really winning you with its sound or hardness; the music is often bland and segregated; not designed to capture non-believers; more designed for the converted and confirmed. That is all very well – making music for Christians; about your love or God – but it doesn’t have to be that way: Christian-Rock does not have to be just faith; foreign to those who think differently. Take me, for example. I am a confirmed and committed atheists (no human, event or circumstance will change that) and will never believe in God- yet I am a huge fan of The Updraft Imperative. Having listened to other Christian-Rock bands, mainly based out of the U.S., I was off-put and cold. I forget their names –  there was a tortured pun or church-related name involved – yet the music was always the same: acoustic-based and overly-gleeful; subjects don’t stray far from belief (and its power) – music that aims to change beliefs or convert thinking, but not musical opinion. It is great having faith; holding onto something you believe in: if you’re a religious musician, and have that platform and aim, then why not aim further and wider? Beyond the churches and Sunday concerts; past the clandestine venues – when do we hear Christian-Rock bands? Perhaps it is a societal fault: there is some snobbiness and discrimination; people are not willing to embrace the music (without even hearing it). Perhaps that is true, yet there is an opportunity at hand: playing electric guitar – and infusing Rock and grit into your sound – does not betray belief; it is not an affront to (anti-religious sentiment). Keep the messages true and you are not offending anyone; or seen as selling out the Christian faith.  Before I end this point, and mention Australian music, let me introduce our featured band:

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Formed in their school days in the country town of Dalby, Queensland, Josh and Murray’s friendship spans over 20 years.  In the time during and after high school they both honed and refined their individual and distinct musical styles.  In 2009, having both moved to Brisbane, the pair decided to get together to write a selection of songs, encompassing both their unique musical styles and their passion for honest, challenging lyrics.  Known simply as ‘Updraft’, the pair recorded a rough 10 track EP, ‘Reflections’. Recording took place in Murray’s garage on an old analogue recording desk and an even older, more unreliable free computer – with Murray both recording and playing guitar, bass and drums.  Laura (Murray’s wife) commented that the resulting demo “sounded much better than it should” due entirely to the low tech facilities available to them at that time.  By late 2012, Josh and Murray had been joined by Pete on drums.  With the full support of their families, the trio made the brave decision to self-fund the professional recording of an album – using some tracks from the earlier demo ‘Reflections’ in addition to some new tracks written as a three piece.  While recording ‘Chair’, the band decided their name needed more impact. ‘Updraft’ was a direct reference to Isaiah 40:31 – ‘… but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’  To stress the bands shared belief that as Christians, we should always be seeking and working towards something higher, a name that gave a strong reminder of this was agreed. And so, ‘The Updraft Imperative’ was born.  The 10 track album, ‘Chair’ was recorded over a four week period and produced by James North.  The band credit James for both his brilliant recording and production skills, but perhaps more importantly for his understanding of what the trio wanted to convey through the album and his direction in how to achieve this while also reflecting and capturing their unique style.  ‘Chair’ was released in December 2012.  With their significant background of support through live performance and leading worship, The Updraft Imperative album tracks were included for airplay on local stations in Australia.  In June 2014, the band were offered support in promoting their music in the UK.  A whirlwind of airplay, radio interviews and album reviews has ensued, not only on the UK, but worldwide.  The storm of media attention happening overseas has stirred further interest back home.”

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I will return to the band (at the end of this section) but for now, to end my point – with regards the rigidness of Christian-Rock. There is this fear about the music; if it is too Rock/Alternative-based; does that water-down its aim? The design of Christian music, and anything that plays in this genre is to promote faith and belief; give thanks and praise (to God)- without trying to preach and judge. Faith is a powerful thing, yet there is power to be gained: by making the music more captivating and popular – thus drawing in more ears and eyes, you are likely to succeed; certainly get more listening. Unless you are Bob Dylan, an acoustic guitar (and a voice) leaves you restricted – something the modern music scene is forgetting. It is 2017 and you have to go further: even Dylan understood ‘going electric’ was the way forward so you cannot be stuck in the past (Christian music has this stuffy and middle-aged image still). What impressed me about The Updraft Imperative – aside from their cool name; the quality of their music – was its contemporary sound. They are not stuffy or boring; they are not insanely happy and saccharine – acts like The Polyphonic Spree can come across as such. Chair is an album that is very faith-orientated and promotes the effects and receptiveness of belief; yet, its music and projection go further – rivalling the best (of the Rock scene). Masters of music’s finest components – a catchy and big chorus; tight and compelling performances; nuanced songs – the album stunned me. The only reason I marked it ‘low’ – or lower than most reviews – is its religious messages. Those messages promulgate strength and joy; giving and togetherness: yet, the God-directed effuse; the faith-will-conquer-all mandates were not quite potent enough to change my thinking; get into my heart. That is a minor flaw: the album (and the band) is filled with majestic layers and plus-points. Arriving with new material (insights into what their new L.P. will contain) it is great to have them back. I shall reflect on that soon. Before I get to the band, and their past work and current movements, it is worth mentioning Australian music.

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Being based in Brisbane – not the hottest and most fervent Australian music hub – it is worth looking around. In terms of the Brisbane music scene (past and present) some great bands have surfaced: Powderfinger and The Saints; The Go-Betweens and The Veronicas; The Riptides and The Grates. Away from the Queensland city, it is Melbourne that leads the way: producing some fantastic and varied sounds. From The Temper Trap to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: there is some fantastic sounds happening there. In the U.K. (and outside Australia), a lot of our exposure to the Australian music scene comes from T.V. shows (like Neighbours and Home and Away). Totally Mild are one of Melbourne’s best (current) bands – their dreamy Electro.-cum-Pop blends have captivated critics. Over in Sydney; Rock bands like Royal Headache are emerging – with their tremendous music (the city has produced acts like INXS, AC/DC and The Vines). Australia is showing itself to be the secret diamond: the country producing the best new music; the finest new sounds. Totally Mild and Royal Headache are perfect examples. With The Updraft Imperative revitalising and showcasing Christian-Rock’s potential – and a wealth of great Alternative acts coming through – the country is really shining; mixing-it-up with the U.K. and U.S.’s best. There is clearly a great mood and wave coming through; a rich vein of form- more eyes should be trained here. Too many (media eyes) are focused on Britain and America; ignoring less-obvious areas (their folly!). The Updraft Imperative have shown, not just in Brisbane terms but globally, how good they are; what diversity can be found. They are the finest Christian-Rock band on the scene. After a terrific debut album, I was keen to investigate their new sounds and see what is in their mind.

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The boys’ previous work (Chair) is the best comparison piece: to see how they have evolved and changed and how the new material stacks up. The album was a bold and brave testament: the band mixed U.S. Rock elements, hints of Bruce Springsteen and Queens of the Stone Age, with some Classic-Rock elements. There were some ‘Australian elements’ to the music – local bands and native sounds –  yet it was mainly U.K./U.S.-based- inspired by the great Rock bands. When it comes to the sound that was laid-out on the album, there were heady and weaving riffs; strong-armed percussion work; compositions that changed composure and delineation whilst catching the listener by surprise. So much depth and originality and a lot of flair and passion; the performances were consistently electrifying and tight. You could hear the kinship and closeness: the songs were well-rehearsed and solid; everything sounded immaculate, yet not too overdone and polished. The lyrics mixed Christian themes with universality of love. What defined the album, in my mind anyway, was that mix of doubt and hope; the uncertainties of faith and offering heart and words (to those who were doubtful and unsure). In a lot of ways, when it comes to the new tracks, the boys are back in business. All the motifs and components remain. They have not radically altered their sensibilities. The greatest leap is their confidence and performances. The new songs (Luna and Pieces of my Past) sound bolder and more assured; the boys are even more assured- I am not sure what has caused this. Maybe motivated by momentum, and their wave of support, there is an extra layer/level at work. In that same sense, the performances are more emphatic and developed. The guitars fuse genres and sounds – they did on the album but do so more abundantly here – and pull it off with aplomb. There is Grunge and Desert-Rock licks; great little licks and lines – the best guitar work of the band’s career. In addition, the percussion work is more rhythmic and potent: more fills and emotion perfectly augmenting every track. The vocals are full-bodied and more determined. That sense of campaign and convert comes through – like every word is utterly crucial; you cannot deny that force.  This bodes well (for a future album) as the music is at its most exciting. The boys get better with age and time.

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When it comes to Luna, I must admit, I am not sure its origins/inspiration but does not disappoint. With our hero in fine voice, sounding seduced and meaningful, the song reveals its background: our man has lost sight of the moon (“This is a song for the moon”). The opening notes are tender and sparse – little shades of Pink Floyd (and their Dark Side of the Moon work comes out) – as you strain into the speakers. Differing from songs like Pieces of my Past; Lunar has a different tact: it looks at the tide rising; reflected in the moon’s beauty – romantic notions and images pour out. Whether directly referencing the moon, I suspect there are relationship suggestions, or not, you are entranced. The Updraft Imperative brings in their core of dark-and-light: the moon is sinking; the darkness is coming into place; those insecurities and fears hove into view. As the vocals kick-up (and are layered), the track gains intensity: something has been “stolen from the sky”; there is emptiness and sense of longing. The moon is lonely tonight. Meteorological metaphor and seasonal capriciousness is introduced; romantic ideals and personal investigation. Stunning images and wordplay tangle; the song remains controlled and composed. There is no reason for this pain (it seems) as the rain that is falling. The need for God to show his love; banish the pain and woe.

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I was wondering about the origins, as our hero seems pained and disappointed. Maybe going through some personal struggles – as suggestions of broken wings and birds are brought in with suffering and redemption. Why fix (that broken wing) and teach a bird to sing only just to break her again?  Deep and vivid images; the vocal radiates with hurt and confusion – why is (our man) so conflicted? The chorus is huge and rushing: the vocals are shivering and spine-tingling. The composition remains reigned-in (as not to steal focus) yet hugely effective. Unlike Pieces of my Past, where the guitars solo-ed and wailed, here, they blend into the vocals; add to the mood- remaining quite sombre and empathetic. It seems “a careless world is waiting just outside”; the desire/supplication to “bring her home” – whether talking about a person (or the moon itself) I am not sure. After the vocal outpourings, filled with passion and huge emotional force, there is a moon-lit coda. The guitar twinkles and glistens (eliciting images of a star-lit night) to represent the solitude of the sky. The percussion remains teasing and slight, adding little smashes and punches (to keep proceedings anxious and tense). In the closing stages, the boys unite: the chorus comes back around; the vocal more tortured while the guitar howls and exorcises. When the ending comes, and the band have done their work, there is that lingering mystique and wonder. Curious as to (how things worked out) the song leaves some questions – and plenty of wonderful memories.

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A counterbalance of Pieces of my Past, and a song that has a different aim and heart, both are equally stunning- you are loathed to pick a winner. Both show the band at their peak; really at their best. The music sounds effortless and natural. The performances are exceptional and faultless. Carrying on their themes of doubt and spiritual guidance; the band offer new slants and angles and keep things fresh- not compromising their ethics and ideals. On Luna – where things are more romantic and soul-searching – you get that lightness and spirituality. That is what The Updraft Imperative do so well: their music is deep and rich; they blend sounds and genres whilst ensuring everything is of the highest order. With fantastic production, that allows everything to shine and seduce; without being too polished, you have a phenomenal song that remains in the mind. It will have you coming back to rediscover little notes and riffs; lyric insights and nuance. Already a fan of the band – and having preconceived notions of new music – I was shocked and stunned. I am confident (when the next album comes out) it will not only enthral existing fans: it will recruit a wave of new acolytes, keen to discover a wonderful band.

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The music world is in need of a shake-up: getting out of the traditional mindset; embracing something different and fresh. A lot of modern bands tend to be young- early-20s-mid-30s and play certain genres (ordinarily Alternative, Rock, Indie; and variations on these genres). The Updraft Imperative are a good case in point: a band that are distinct and new. They are not the tried-and-tested formula. The boys aren’t exactly ‘getting-on’ in years – they are still gazelle-like in energy – yet are past their younger days (phrased that as diplomatically as I could muster). This maturity and experience does wonders and comes out in their music. Their combined years create rich and instructive tracks; inspirational and deep moments that we can all embrace. Not concerned with media expectations and conforming to an ideal, they are fun guys having a ball: making music they love; paens to faith and its power. They should compel many up-coming bands. Re-writing the rules (of Christian-Rock) they have the cross-border appeal; strong enough to break through barriers (faith and music) to reach new audiences. Their latest cut show they have lost none of their drive; that common touch is still firm. Their endless endeavour and quality is here. Perhaps a step-up from Chair’s best, the boys sound more confident and tight; inspired and motivated, they have been driven by success and support on Luna. The media attention and fan-love have spurred them and led to a creative explosion. Luna is just the beginning. What amazes me about the band, and continues to do so, is their balance of sounds; their integrity and passion – how much music means to them. From following them on Twitter and Facebook, I know how much they love their fans and how productive they are. The boys have affection for their fans – and have a great manager behind them – so the music reflects those elements of trust and joy; ambition and urgency.

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Having spoken with Murray a while back (the band’s guitarist) in a brief, but technically-fraught video chat, he is pumped and ready. The band have experienced some upheaval – including a split with their long-time drummer, Pete – and had to stay strong. In the face of adversity and uncertainty, the boys are looking ahead: they have rehired and galvanised and been back in the studio – they will soon unveil their sophomore album. On that subject, the irons are still in the fire: the songs are being penned and we shall know more in time. With Pieces of my Past out and Luna in the ether- two of the band’s finest songs – they both continue (and break-away from) Chair. That album mixed hard-hitting compositions with multi-part messages: faith and God’s love; broken love and relations; simple homespun pleasures. Here, they are venturing into new territory. Those compositional elements are all there; that fantastic genre-fuse and cross-pollination, yet the boys sound like stronger songwriters. They are buoyed and driven by their previous success and clearly on a natural high. Whilst these two numbers – especially Luna – are more emotion/passion-led, and play a slightly softer side, that is not to say (their upcoming songs) will be like this. Chair contained calmer moments; their new album will, too. It is left for me to end on two notes: those touched on in the introduction (Australian music and Christian-Rock). Australia is the world’s most surprising musical country but not in a bad way; it just seems like a revival happening. Cities Melbourne and Sydney are producing some stunning bands. Not just your generic and tied acts (the Melbourne/Sydney bands) are more ambitious and substantive; varied and spectacular. They are going deeper and further than their peers. In the Rock and Punk arenas, some young and hungry bands are emerging. Royal Headache (not so young) are the leaders but have been out a while now. There are many other city-mate bands producing wonderful music. When it comes to Electro.-Pop and synth.-led sounds; some tremendous (and female-led) artists are popping up – normally found in Melbourne.

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I am not sure what it is about the cities, and why you find certain music in each, yet, I am glad there is such fervency – in Melbourne, Sydney and the bigger cities – as it is setting the music world alight. The media are being forced to take note; widen their scope and sights – and give their respects to Australia. Away from the more ‘obvious’ locations, the likes of Brisbane are starting to emerge – showcasing some of music’s most hard-working and forward-thinking musicians. The Updraft Imperative are on a noble charge and they are improving by the release. Their new track show just that. Luna possesses plenty of emotion and softness, some openness and vulnerability:  those emphatic and spirited riffs/compositions take charge. That is why I love the band (well one reason anyway) and their music: they subvert expectations; seamlessly blend Rock swagger with words of faith and love, hope and heartache. I think a lot of people have preconceived notions (of Christian-Rock) have been misled by its big players. That idea of sappy and uninteresting songs is a rather cliché image/make-up. The Updraft Imperative are not your sweater-wearing, guitar-totting ‘preachers’: strumming aimlessly and grinning aimlessly. The Brisbane boys are a genuine Rock band. They have that authority and desire. Their niche is the Christian message – it is not preached or heavy-handed; it is blended into the mix- so you would barely notice. That is the biggest asset (the band possesses): on the one hand, they appeal to fellow Christians – and have a sermonising edge – yet their music digs deeper and unites all. It goes beyond the borders of religion and belief.

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Years after I reviewed Chair, there is no hyperbole; just shock and stun. I knew back then a great band was upon us; something very special indeed. I left my atheism at the door; did not go in single-minded: that openness led to great revelation and joy; music that (I would not normally) have uncovered. Whilst my religious views are not changed, you do not need to be a Christian to understand the music’s appeal, my musical outlook has been radicalised. I have been compelled to dig into the genre and unearth fellow Christian-Rock gems – see what else is out there. The Updraft Imperative should foster a surge of like-minded bands: those unwilling to follow their example are foolish indeed! The band’s social media ranks are growing; their fanbase is expanding; their media portfolio is looking mighty fine. The boys may be seeing a membership switch, and losing their original drumming comrade, yet the music sounds at its most exhilarating. Luna is one of their best statements. It is phenomenally assured and compelling: a song that demands repeated plays just to get to the bottom of it. There is some secrecy at the moment, as to when the new album will be ready, but one thing is for sure: there will be new music and it will be fantastic. Staying close to Chair’s hallmarks, the mix of sounds and themes; those incredible performances, there is a notable quality increase; a bit more passion and energy. The band has never sounded as alive and ready. I know the future holds interviews and gigs; recording sessions and plans. It is an exciting time to get involved. The Updrafters – the name given to the band’s fans – want your recruitment; they are looking for your love.  On the evidence put forth, and with Chair’s wonder still winning hearts and minds, why would…

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YOU refuse them?


Follow The Updraft Imperative:

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FEATURE: The March Playlist: Vol. 3: A Feisty Girl



The March Playlist



Vol. 3: A Feisty Girl


THIS week’s title alludes to a certain Canadian artist who…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Frank Ocean

has released a long-awaited song. Pleasure is her forthcoming album and follows the critically-acclaimed smash, Metals. It has been a long six years for Feist and one that is coming to an end – some new material from her is a great way to kick spring into gear. I include that track but bring together some epic new numbers from the likes of Stormzy and Frank Ocean. It is a strange and varied time for music, so, alongside those cool-jams are new songs from New Kids on the Block – got to cover all the bases here! Female artists of the highest order are included as are new band-made songs from Kasabian and Pond. Not all the songs included is that great – Kasabian a bit off their best – but it is good to see the richness and gaps in the industry. Not that I revel at average music but I like seeing the contrasts; the ups and downs and rich periods. It is another bumper week for music and proof that you can never predict what you will get.


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Emmy the GreatMahal Kita

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British Sea Power Keep on Trying (Sechs Freunde)

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Bad Wave1955

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Marian Hill Down

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New Kids on the Block One More Night

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ANOHNIYou Are My Enemy

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Frank Ocean – Chanel

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Kasabian – You’re In Love with a Psycho

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Stormzy – Cold

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Joe Goddard – Home

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jorje Camarotti

Feist – Pleasure

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Daya – Words

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Benny Benassi x Lush & Simon (feat. Frederick)We Light Forever Up

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BadBadNotGood (ft. Kaytranada & Snoop Dogg)  Lavender (Nightfall Remix)

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PondThe Weather

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Betty Who – Mama Say

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Close Talker – Okay Hollywood

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Weezer – Feels Like Summer

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Joe Fox Aftershow

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Paddy Hanna Bad Boys

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Deorro – Feeling Pretty Good

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PHOTO CREDIT: Chris Davidson

Drones Club – Hurricane

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Fenne Lily – What’s Good

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Bridgit Mendler (ft. Pell)I Can’t Bring This Down

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Chloe Martini – Dark Noise

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Nicki Minaj (ft. Drake and Lil Wayne) – No Frauds

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Blvck Delorean and Jared85Time Tourist

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Chloe X Halle – The Two of Us

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Clean Bandit (ft. Zara Larsson) – Symphony

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Isla Wolfe – Crazy

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Inner Tongue – Underworld

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JFDR – Anew

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PHOTO CREDIT: Gareth Gatrell

Jerry Williams – I’m Not In Love With You

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Cold War Kids (ft. Bishop Briggs)So Tied Up (Los Feliz Blvd)

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Joey Devries – Talk

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Leo Kalyan – Feels Right

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Linkin Park – Battle Symphony

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Lover – Lonely Now

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Machine Gun Kelly (ft. Hailee Steinfeld) – At My Best

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Mike Will Made It (ft. Big Sean) – Come Up

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Mr. Sanka – Gallon

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PHOTO CREDIT: Josh Shinner

Tom Chaplin (ft. JONES) – Solid Gold

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Claptone (Ft. George Kranz) – The Drums (Din Daa Daa)

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Bonkaz (ft. S. Loud) – Cash Money

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Will Joseph Cook – Biggest Fan

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Matt Maltese – As the World Caves In

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Anna Pancaldi – Brother

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Todd Terje – Jungelknugen (Four Tet remix)

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Mura Masa (ft. Charli XCX) – 1 Night

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Cabbage – Gibraltar Ape

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Asgeir – Stardust

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Matt Wills – Emily

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Melanie C (ft. Alex Francis)Hold On (Filtr Acoustic Session)

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Allday (ft. Japanese Wallpaper) – In Motion

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Noah Noah – Thick as Thieves

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Plested – Habits

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Saara – Superpowers

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Angel – Hi Grade

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PHOTO CREDIT: Josh Fletcher

Sea Bed – Silent Song

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Super Cruel (ft. Lisa Mitchell) – November

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Tinashe – Flame

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Vera Blue – Private

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ZHU – Nightcrawler

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Soulwax – Do You Want to Get In Trouble?

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The Sound of Arrows – Beautiful Life

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Adult. (ft. Dorit Chrysler) Inexhaustible

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Chilly Gonzales and Jarvis Cocker– Tearjerker

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Cloves – Better Now

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NAO – In the Morning

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The Answer – In This Land

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Little Big Town – Happy People

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Conor Oberst – Next of Kin

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IDLES – Date Night

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Depeche ModeCover Me

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Deadmau5 – Whelk Then

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Frances – Cloud 9

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KXM – Obsession

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Milky Chance – Firebird

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Obituary – Sentence Day

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The Raven Age – Salem’s Fate

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Samantha Fish – Hurt’s All Gone

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SoMo – Mirror

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Tamikrest – War Toyed

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PHOTO CREDIT: Tania Feghali

Yasmine Hamdan – Iza

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The Sherlocks – Was It Really Worth It?

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Skott – Wolf

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Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band (ft. Bill Murray) – Happy Street

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Pitbull (ft. Leona Lewis) – Only Ones to Know

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Pulled Apart by Horses– Lamping

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Real Estate – Two Arrows

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Rick Ross – Santorini Greece

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Sorority Noise – A Better Sun

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Spoon – Pink Up

It is another week and March is proving to be one of the most intriguing and busy months in recent memory. Some great names have released fantastic songs; new artists showing what they are made of in the process. It is a competitive and colourful time for music. As we inch into spring, it seems the music world is really stepping up to the plate. I will be keeping a view on what’s happening and excitedly documenting all the best tracks around. The sun is (almost) out and the weather is warming up. What better time than put on some great songs and…

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LET music do its work.