Your Moon is available at:
Folk; Singer-Songwriter; Alternative-Pop
10th March, 2017
THERE is quite a lot to cover in this review…
so I shall try and keep it focused. As I pull close to my one-thousandth post, I have been thinking about moving on and expanding my horizons. It has been great looking at artists who are just starting out and making their initial moves in music. What I am hoping to take on is musicians that have a bit more to their portfolio. One of my biggest gripes is encountering artists who are threadbare and vague. You get some fantastic music and incredible promise but there is something lacking about their online spread. I will come to look at female artists with a difference and professionalism; video-making and songs that look at separation; a bit about international artists and those who relocate to London – finishing by talking a bit about fitting into 2017’s musical ambitions. That first point, about getting your website organised, fits into what I said in a recent feature – where I was discussing how to get hits and streams on Spotify. I will not bore you with the entire feature but I broke it down into a few points. New artists need to be hard-working and vigilante when it comes to getting their music out there. If you are relying on social media and hoping people naturally find you on Spotify then you will not get the streams and popularity you envisage. What you need to do, among other things, is to connect with other artists and share their music – in turn, encouraging them to do the same with your material. Also, it is wise reaching out to those people who are likely to share and listen to your music. One of the most underrated and important considerations are making sure your online house is in order. By that, I mean you need to get everything looking good and tidy. If you have a few photos hanging around and looking pretty low-resolution then few are going to impressed.
The same goes with any Facebook page at all: having something looking shoddy is not going to impress anyone. That brings me back to my original point where I was talking about branching out. If you have a Facebook page that does not share all your links or not updated then you are not going to go too far. The reason for reviewing Monelise’s new music before anything else was a simple decision based on ergonomics and organisation. I have been planning to review others but have had to give artists a swift kick up the backside. What I love about established and ‘popular’ artists are how full and insightful their online stalls are. They usually have an official website and lots of great photos to choose from. On top of that, you get a good biography and some rather good-looking pages – it is all very nice on the eye and regularly updated. I deal with a lot of P.R. companies who keep things professional and ensure the review is afforded as much information as possible. Because of that, I not only have a lot to discuss in reviews but loads of images to include. Being a ‘niche’ reviewer – pretty long pieces that go into depth – I require a certain standard from artists. I have a lot of fantastic acts in my diary but am hesitant, with a few, because their social media pages have few images and little information. My featured artist does have a P.R. representative behind her but, by and large, takes charge of her online pages. She has a full and detailed official website and ensures there are lots of clear and interesting images to go alongside the information. I do not expect every artist to have such a comprehensive and stunning look but there is a certain benchmark all should adhere to. One of the most frustrating things I see in many artists is their Facebook page. One would expect, on their information/biography, to have ALL the social media links included. That is not hard you’d think?! The number of times I have had to search around for all the different sites is amazing. By the end of it – hitting the artist’s name into Google, for instance – I am a little angry.
It is basic and easy things like this so many artists are overlooking. If you want someone like me – or a proper professional – to come and survey your music then you need to get simple things like that sorted well in advance. I know photographs are expensive and a pain but it only requires a day’s work. You can easily find a photographer who can discuss concepts and ideas before you meet up. Then, in the space of a day, you can have dozen-or-more fine images in your possession. Yeah, it might cost a couple of hundred quid but you would not realise just how effective and important that is. You might say I am a fine one to talk with my blog: it is on WordPress and does suffer some logistical and stylistic flaws. That is true but, following my own advice, am about to unveil a new, all-sparkling-all-singing official website that will vastly improve on the one I use right now. I understand the relevance of ensuring you have something proper to show people. One of the big issues with WordPress, among several, is its image and layout. It is not the easiest to navigate and is hampered by running speeds and a rather basic template. I have had to sacrifice a couple of hundred quid but know what a difference it will make. Getting back to my point and it seems many artists are not willing to do likewise. It is tough making ends meet but if you are in music then you need to understand what people expect from you. Monelise has a great official website and she has social media pages that contain images and information. She is someone who will go a long way on that alone. It is attractive to me and makes me more likely to review her music and take time assessing her. I shall come to my next point but, for now, want to introduce you to her:
“MONELISE is a singer/songwriter and pianist in whose haunting compositions classically inspired soundscapes mix with mystical poetry. Her shimmering Kate Bush-style vocals soar over vintage piano sounds, complimenting her captivating and sophisticated lyrics.
MONELISE was born in Russia but spent most of her life travelling and temporarily settling in vibrant, culturally rich cities like St Petersburg, Edinburgh and London, her current home. Her musical passion began when she began to train in classical piano as a teenager. She went on to study English Literature at the University of Edinburgh– where she took up singing and writing– and subsequently completed a Musical Theatre course at the Associated Studios in London. MONELISE derives her influences from artists such as Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley and Joni Mitchell. Her unique, poetic lyrics are inspired by a distinct outlook that has been described as “ethereal”.
She released her debut EP, “A Million Little Moments”, in October 2015. Its lead single came as a semi-finalist in the UK Songwriting contest, and the Independent Spotlight described the whole EP as “nothing short of exceptional […] a record that is as entertaining now as it will be a year from now. Most indie records don’t hold up like that.”
In addition to being a singer-songwriter, MONELISE is also an experienced actress and dancer. She recently combined all her skills in order to create an enchanting contemporary dance-based video for her new single, ‘Your Moon’, which was released on March 10th, 2017”.
I shall jump ahead and take a gander at artists from overseas. I realise most artists are international – a minority are British – but I rarely get to review someone outside the U.K. Sure, I have had my fair share of foreign talent but, lately, it is a case of Britain or nownt. Although Monelise is based in London she is, as her biography shows, from Russia. I have to admit I know nothing of the Russian music scene and what it is like at all. I, like many, assume they incorporate a lot of European/mainstream artists but, when it comes to their native artists, it is nothing to write home about. Whilst there are aspects of Russia I strongly disagree with – racism and homophobia; drug-cheating and a somewhat dictatorial leader – their culture and artistic output have always been extraordinary. In terms of music, of course, the nation has given us Igor Stravinsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky but many of us end there – perhaps that is when Russian music hit its peak. True, there is not the same scene and profligacy as you’d find in the U.K. and U.S. but there are some great acts coming through. The Russian media is focusing heavily on the band market – perhaps the most commercial side of music – and highlighting some of the examples that are set to make an impact on the international stage. Pompeya, despite being based in L.A. now, were founded in Moscow and have been in operation for a decade now. Starting off as a hipster group; they have adapted their sound to suit the western audiences and Pop/Alternative market. In a city as completive and impressive as L.A., have they are adding their unique blends into the mix. Tesla Boy, likewise, has impressed in the U.K. and are signed to British label Mullet Records. They have performed on the same stage as Placebo and Hurts and are a band to keep an eye out for. On-the-Go is a band that have a fantastic outlay and loads of images on social media. They are an attractive proposition from Togliatti but are often confused with a British band – drawing comparisons to alt-J. Their sound is melancholic but has emotional depth and nuance: make sure you spend some time checking the guys out. Jack Wood, sounds like ‘Jack White’, are inspired by the White Stripes legend and have a similar wardrobe: you are reminded of the legendary band and the way they dressed.
When it comes to music, Jack Wood have played Glastonbury and had their music featured on the T.V. show House of Cards. Although that list is male-heavy and has few female voices; it does show Russian music is not obsolete and invisible. Monelise is one artist that has the potential of country-mates Jack Wood but is a very different proposition. It is important investigating Russian music but there seems to be a common thread: most of the nation’s artists are relocating and moving to countries like England and America. Perhaps there isn’t the same commercial appeal in Russia. The nation has a lot of hungry acts but one feels the country favours chart music from Britain and America. Because of that, many musicians have fled and are based in other nations. Monelise has spent time in America but now has that base in London. Not only does she have the opportunity and audiences to get her music spread far and wide: there is a definite hunger and appetite for the kind of music she is making. There is a bit of Kate Bush to her – something I shall discuss later – but, largely, it is her background and personality that makes her such a fine proposition. Perhaps the U.K. has given Monelise the chance to exploit her music and ensure it reaches a large audience. Were she still based in Russia, one wonders whether (her music) would have the same popularity. Over the next couple of months, I will be encountering a few foreign artists – including another Russian artist. I get so bogged in British and American acts, I forget there are other nations out there. I guess we all get comfortable assuming there is no music world outside of Britain and America – there are so many great international acts out there.
In the same way (it is important) encouraging gender and racial equality in music: one must promote and ensure international artists are given a fair platform. I love the music coming from Sweden and Australia; the acts emerging from Norway and Canada. Sure, perhaps the quality and quantity are lacking (compared with the U.K.) but there is richness and promise out there. If we become too narrow with our music then we will miss out on a lot. Music is only going to progress and inspire if we embrace everything out there. Monelise shows there is some fantastic music coming from Russia right now. I will come back to that in the conclusion but want to commend her for her professionalism and attitude her craft. I have already mentioned her website and social media looks but see that extended to music videos and other areas. Looking at the video for Your Moon and you are reminded of some of the mainstream’s best. The visuals, concept and scenes are wonderfully rich and fascinating. It is a video that gets into the mind and, although not made on a huge budget, comes from someone with a brilliantly creative and innovative mind. I feel there are artists out there who could achieve so much more but just need to make the effort. Music is expensive and draining but the only way to succeed and improve is making sacrifices. That could be financial – there is a need to have a budget and deep pockets at times – or it can be personal. Maybe you will need to relocate or spend extra time hitting up directors and P.R. companies. It is an endless and extensive career that rewards those who put the legwork in. That is true of Monelise who continues to grow and evolve. Not only is her latest single, Your Moon, creating buzz but there are high hopes for the future. Based in London, she is in the beating heart of the music industry. Whether there are festival plans and tour dates on the horizon, I am not sure. I expect to see her playing some big gigs in years to come and rubbing shoulders with some of new music’s best. I have been talking about female artists and how important it is to create an equality and open market. There seems to be a sexism and imbalance that is extending to festivals and award shows. I have covered this in great detail (so shall not come back to it) but wanted to encourage people to, if not already, embrace the best female artists out there and ensure they are not forgotten. I know there are many who are doing this but the music industry bosses and studios are lacking responsibility and ethics in this area.
I will come back to this point in the conclusion but, before I come to Monelise’s latest track, want to talk a bit about London as a base and video-making – those acts set for good things this year. Many are coming to London and plying their trade here. In fact, between Los Angeles and London, we must have all the best artists in the world right now. I can understand the desire to depart somewhere like Russia and come to Britain. I am not down on Russia – not in all areas at least – but appreciate it is not exactly overflowing with festivals, venues and great labels. They have their own tastes and do tend to embrace chart and mainstream tastes rather than create a huge scene of their own. There are not the opportunities in Russia one would find somewhere like the U.K. Because of that, we are seeing a great wave of artists come over here. Monelise seems very settled here and is enjoying the benefits of the city. It is not only the vibrancy and energy of London that attracts many but the variety of people. You have so many different nationalities here and a bustling metropolis that welcomes all. In my mind, it is the venues and festival opportunities that are bringing musicians here. Sure, there are high costs associated with London – to rent and buy will require some serious cash – but there are much more positives than negatives. It can be hard making your voice heard above the wave of other musicians but London rewards those determined and committed. There are venues available and willing audiences: if you put the effort in and take things seriously then you will reap the rewards. In terms of Monelise, she is a female songwriter with sound and influence that is becoming more popular and common. By that, I mean I am seeing many songwriters that have artists like Kate Bush at heart. That is no bad thing at all – quite the opposite in fact. What it means is we will start to see a move away, let’s hope, from mainstream Pop and artists that have more emotion, depth and beauty in their sound.
I feel this year will be important for Monelise as she attempts to carve out influence in the city. She has the background and talent to go as far as she wants and understands it will take a while. Your Moon is a positive and impressive step: a song that has the potential to gain radio airplay and get serious attention. This year, there is going to be a slight shift in regards the sort of sound favoured and popularised – in the mainstream at least. Last year, I felt the R&B/Urban sector did the biggest business. Artists like Beyoncé, Solange and Frank Ocean did sterling business: here, Skepta, Michael Kiwanuka and James Blake did sterling business. Yes, there is some Alternative and Soul in there but you know what I mean. In 2017, I am seeing transformation occur. I feel Electronic-Soul blends and Rock acts will start to gain more attention. Last year, there were some great Rock acts coming through but not quite at the stage to do much business. Now, aside from tasty treats in the form of Royal Blood (new single) and Queens of the Stone Age (album on the horizon); we have bands like The Amazons coming through. It will be exciting to see how they do this year but it seems to be indicative of a slight change. Running alongside that, I feel the Pop/Alternative-Folk artist will make an impact this year and inspire a new generation. It might sound like a polemic explosion but am starting to see a change. Not that R&B and Urban artists will be quiet this year: a new album from Kendrick Lamar is about to drop – the Hip-Hop master will bring DAMN. to the people very soon. I’ll wrap this up but just wanted to show Monelise has a real chance to do great things. She has already got her social media and online side of things sorted and given us a great song in Your Moon. If she continues and keeps strong she will start to get some big gigs and make her way to the biggest festivals.
I have been looking at Monelise’s previous songs and can see a natural development to Your Moon. In terms of material covered, it has mainly been cover versions. Aside from, of course, A Million Little Moments – her stunning E.P which showed a stunning artist natural born with confidence and rare talent. That said, her version of Under the Ivy (Kate Buh) adds, if possible, even more beauty and purity to the original. It is brave taking someone like Kate Bush on but, on the evidence of the cover version, has come off good – few artists can do justice to a Kate Bush song. In terms of original material; Your Moon is what we are looking at. It is a song that has been, by others, noted for its beauty, passion and effectiveness – it is instant and gets into the head within the first few seconds. That is no overstatement as we hear delicate piano notes. In a way, it is a cross between Kate Bush and, oddly, Muse. I hear a bit of their song, New Born, and its introduction. Sure, the piano is not as accelerated here but has that same delicate-cum-determined head that bonds the two. What gets to me is how lulled and seduced you are at once: helpless to resist the charms and tenderness of the sound. Our heroine wants her man to look up each night and see her there – a star-like figure that shines bright and makes its/her impression known. The words are delivered with compassion and elongation: the lines unfurl and reveal themselves rather than rush off the page. Backed by simple keys and minimal intrusion; Monelise’s powerful and sensuous voice provides soothe and velvet but is underpinned by an urgency and necessity. Whether she is talking about a new relationship or one that has ended, you are piecing together the puzzle. Maybe the man has left her or they are divided by continents. It has all the hallmarks of a literary romance: star-crossed lovers divided but determined to find one another. Certainly, separation and loss are subjects the author has revealed already – the song is about that pain and having to process things. From that, I can extrapolate the love is either undergoing entropy or is fighting for survival. Almost retrospective in nature: I get the impression of a young woman on her own, pining for her man.
Not to go back to the Kate Bush well – hopefully, Monelise will forgive – but one gets shades of her Never for Ever work. It has that same dynamic of romance/love and longing; a dreaminess and vivid set of lyrics that involve the listener in the song. The track’s chorus is, perhaps, the defining moment. The words ‘your’ and ‘moon’ are lengthened and delivered with immense care and purity. There is all manner of emotions and complexities that go into the performance. Essentially, the heroine wants to be that lunar light that shines on the hero – maybe providing guidance, assurance and security. I feel the reason behind the title is more straightforward: she wants to be seen and visible; lest she be forgotten and the love burns out. By casting yourself as an omnipresent vision, there is little chance of being overlooked and ignored. Again, I felt the two were on different plains and have, perhaps, been separated by competing ambitions. Maybe the heroine wants something deeper but the man has not reciprocated. It is a complex song that will reveal different interpretations from each listener. I guess things have naturally run their course and each is trying to make their own way. I like a song that reveals a bit about itself but never gives everything away. It provides wiggle-room for the listener to observe and conspire as they feel fit. I am caught and affected by the simplicity of the composition. There is no needless over-orchestration or force iteration. One simply hears the keys play in the background: it is almost star-like and moonlit in its impressions. The two ran against time and were vulnerable to its chimes – eternal and grave; a reminder that nothing lasts forever. The way Monelise writes is exceptional. No cliché lyrics or predictable couplets: it is literary and intelligent; thoughtful and deep. I admire a writer who subverts expectations and provides nourishment for body, mind and soul – that is a rare trinity in a music world become more shallow and commercial.
Into the second-half of the song, one hears about scarred and haunted dreams: it is not smooth for the lovers and there is a sense of mystery behind the separation. The chorus looms as large as the moon of which it speaks. It is emphatic and large in the mind: everyone will picture the moon and see the lovers gazing up towards it. Of course, Monelise means it metaphorically but the power of the image brands itself in the mind. Perhaps some slight string articulation and introduction, in the final-third, might have added a new gear and introduced a sense of grace and shiver. The piano notes do well and ensure the song is provided ample passion and beauty. Maybe a little bit of cello or double bass, if kept low in the mix, would have injected a few more colours and strands. Despite that, one cannot fault a song that builds from what we heard on A Million Little Moments but builds on it. Monelise is at her most assured and exceptional now. Maybe touring and time has strengthened her core and provided her with the impetus to aim big and create songs like Your Moon. A Million Little Moments is an exceptional E.P. but, to my ear, there is something that extra-bit-special on her latest single. Whether we will see another E.P. this year or not remains to be seen but the fact remains: Monelise is one of those songwriters you know will continue to create. I would love to see an episodic, revealing E.P. that defines where she is and where she wants to head – revealing everything she wants to say and all she hopes to achieve. Your Moon is a fitting next step for a young woman who has already established herself as one of the more promising and impressive artists in the country. With more gig opportunities and time, she is well capable of ascending to the mainstream and adding her mark to the current charts – credibility and strong songwriting is something we all celebrate and need to see more of.
I will come back to my point about Russian/international music and the importance of images and professionalism; a bit about the importance of visibility and effort in modern music and London as a base for new musicians. Before that, I will look at Monelise’s music and where she might go this year. Your Moon is a stunning song that promises more music to come. I would like to hear a Monelise E.P. or album in the future. I feel she has the impetus and desire to keep performing and releasing music. Whether that takes the form of new songs or an L.P., I am not sure. Whatever comes, it is sure to be met with acclaim and passion. She has a growing fanbase keen to hear more and share her work. Having come from Russia – via Edinburgh – to London, she is now looking to put down roots and grow. That said, maybe there is a part of her that yearns to keep travelling – maybe a stay in the U.S. is in her future. She has studied in Scotland and England and seems very comfortable in the U.K. Your Moon was born out of a songwriting retreat in Spain and shows the internationality of our heroine. She has travelled a lot and got a flavour of the differing musical scenes around the world. Here, there are chances for her to develop and build her career. I would look forward to seeing her play festivals and make an impression on the British festival scene. At the moment, there are females playing the big festivals but very few that get to the headline stages. Maybe that will take years to come but I hope small changes can take place sooner rather than later. I hope things will improve because, as they stand now, it is not really acceptable. Perhaps commercialism and chart music is muddying the waters. With artists like Monelise coming through – talented and not beholden to chart positions and a certain market – people will have to take notice and make changes. I am not sure how many gigs she has this year but would expect a few dates around London. It is only a matter of time before she can get onto the larger stages so these early days are very important – although her debut E.P. came out two years ago. She seems more secure and confident than ever and that shows in the music.
I didn’t really – like I said I would – touch on songs about separate and loss. It is a commodity and stock that is common to all of us: we have all faced some loss and dislocation at some point in our lives. Many musicians write about love and relationships but do so in a rather obvious and ham-fisted way. It is hard making love/lovelorn songs sound fresh and new but it is not being helped by some rather charmless and uninspiring lyrics. Those artists that resonate with critics can take common themes and make them sound intelligent and compelling. That can be said of Monelise who looks at anxiety around separation and makes it sound beautiful and hopeful. She is someone who has experienced pain and heartache but channels that into some stunning music. Your Moon is a vivid and memorable song that touches you for a number of reasons. The lyrics are deep and wise whilst the vocal and composition have ethereal majesty and spine-tingling moments. It is always hard talking about separation through fear it will alienate people and sound too morbid. I feel, if you do it just right, it can have the opposite effect. The song’s video was filmed under the smoky light of Epping Forest and features exquisite dance sequences. Monelise is an actor and dancer and uses her skills to great effect in the video. The soundscape is Classical and backs themes of remembrance and nostalgia. She has taken potentially worn and cliché themes and created a work that is both profound and original. That is a hard feat to pull off but one done with conviction and aplomb.
I will end things but end by looking back at (first) the city of London. To some, it is a nightmare of pollution, high prices and rude people. To those, smarter and less angry people, it is the cultural centre of the planet – some of the finest humans you will find. Yeah, there is going to be some pollution and overcrowding because; spoiler alert: people actually want to live there. It is teaming with young professionals and creatives; people of all races and nationalities and those who want to live in the greatest city on the planet. I have very little time for people who bag London and turn their noses up – often, they are not people you’d ever want to be trapped in a room with. The wiser and brighter folks appreciate London’s flaws but recognise her beauty and passion. That is attracting musicians from all around the world at the moment. It is not just people from other parts of the U.K. coming here: those from all around the world are settling and seeking a new life. Immigration is a controversial issue that has, rather worryingly, divided our nation in the last few months – the main reason people voted to leave the E.U. In music, we have (thankfully) an opposite nature – one where we welcome people in and encourage them to stay. It is a bit ironic we open our borders to musicians but want them closed to everyone else. I shall leave that steamy issue for another day but am glad so many great international artists are saying in the county. London provides that opportunity-laden platform they can cut their teeth on. There are thousands of artists here but that is not to say it is impossible getting your music heard. It takes a resilience and tough skin: if you manage to stay the course and keep pressing; those rewards and chances will come your way.
Russia is not, traditionally, a nation we associate with great modern music. I have already highlighted a few bands making their way and putting the nation on the map – even if a few of them have relocated to countries like the U.S. Russia has some great musicians that deserve more respect than they get. I suppose it is hard looking at all nations and keeping your eye on what they are doing. Maybe Britain and America gives Russian artists the chance to get their music heard. One assumes Russia’s charts and radio stations are more interested in the mainstream/chart music we have here. Luckily, Monelise has got herself over here and reaping the benefits and market we have. That said; it gets me thinking about foreign music and countries we often overlook. I have pleaded the case for Sweden and Australia but know that is the tip of the iceberg. We all need to become more conscious of the wider world and what is out there. I’ll let you do that but would recommend you investigate Asian music a lot more closely. It is a continent that often gets overlooked but I am seeing some great bands/artists come out of the continent. In reality, there is (literally) a world of great music so we should not be so rigid when it comes to our choices.
Monelise is one of those artists that can go a long way and knows what it takes to succeed. She works tirelessly on her music and is keen to triumph. Real name Maria Kheyfets; she has just changed her artist name to Monelise (she capitalises it but have a general rule about not doing that). She is a terrific songwriter that takes themes of separation and nostalgia and adds her own stamp to it. I cannot wait to see where she goes and what music comes next. Your Moon has that memorable video and is a song that stays long in the memory. What impresses me greatly is the way Monelise attracts new listeners in. Many, like I stated, overlook social media and images and assume it is nothing to worry about. I cannot tell you just how frustrating it is encountering a new act who are brilliant and deserve featuring but have a few images on their websites. What am I meant to do with that?! Even interviews, for me anyway, require a few more shots than that. For reviews, you are left replicating the same photo over and over – or a single shot in some cases! I do not buy the fact musicians want the music to do all the talking. The same can be said of Paul McCartney and Kate Bush but they actually allowed a photographer to snap them: they conduct interviews and make sure the public know more about that. Being enigmatic is one thing but that is not what is happening. Instead, you have so many new artists who are hiding and ignorantly keeping their faces out of it. That is fine if you want to only last a short time in the business. Music is as much a visual art as any out there. For me, as a journalist, I need images to make my blog look good – and provide a face and identity to the people I feature. If there are no photos (or a few half-arsed shots) then it doesn’t look professional and a bit shoddy. I want my pages to look crisp, beautiful and like they could have been created for a big music site. If artists let me down on that side of things, I will disappoint them (and my readers) when it comes to publishing. Because of this, I go after artists that have spent some money and energy on photographs. Monelise is one such example and someone I will recommend to all. She has shown, in Your Moon, what she is all about. Long may her music…
DELIGHT and stun.