Pay to Play
Pay to Play is available at:
Antifolk; Pop; Alternative
The album, Little Torch, is available at:
NOT to take a shot at the guys but…
as I keep saying, there is something wonderfully intriguing and curious about female artists. Naturally, not all of them are fascinating: there are plenty of boring and commercial artists who do not stick in the mind or warrant any real interest. That said, there are many that provoke a reaction and distinguish themselves. The artist I love the most is one who not only has great and original music but a really special and unique personality. That is certainly the case with Erin K. I will, of course, come to her music – selecting a single from Little Torch and talking about the album in general – and what that holds but, baring her in mind, there is a lot more to discuss. I want to look at quirkiness/humour/wit in music; artists who play big gigs and what that means; song subjects and different themes; headline shows and accolades; stars-in-waiting and the issue of equality and beauty. Before all of this, a slight look at London venues Erin K could play, I will take a gander at ‘Antifolk’. It seems like a rather cheap shot at a genre I have a lot of affection for. As you know – or might not if you do not regularly check in – I assess a lot of Folk acts and the variety available. It sounds like Antifolk is an attack at the limitations and acoustic sounds but, if anything, it is an embrace of the textures and cores: expanding the sound and diversifying the lyrics. In terms of defining the genre, it is about eschewing the seriousness and po-faced nature of 1960s’ music – not merely the Folk genre. Those political songs and too-stuffy songs that seem a little pretentious and calculated. Against the tide of mainstream and commercial artists; it is more raw and experimental genre that is aimed at people who listen to music to be educated, amazed and discover – not someone who wants to hear something easy and simple. In that sense, the second-syllable of the genre is a bit misleading – perhaps a general misnomer.
Modern Folk is much more experimental and personal than the 1960s variety but that is where Antifolk sprung from – that need to dispense with the seriousness and try something looser and variegated. Bands like The Moldy Peaches and AJJ are renowned Antifolk acts; Florence + the Machine, in a lot of ways, can be classed as such whilst Kate Nash – more on her later – Regina Spektor and Beck are people who take Folk and add more colour, invention and wit to the genre. Again, it sounds like a dig at modern Folk but it really a movement against the limited and overly-sensitive Folk of decades-past. As you will hear from the likes of Regina Spektor and Beck – Courtney Barnett for that matter – are artists who have Acoustic/Folk roots but employ strings and various instruments; their lyrics mix personal concerns but are more character-driven, observations and interesting. Vocals, often, stray from that earnest and one-dimensional sound; something more flexible, vibrant and nuanced comes to mind. Antifolk is a genre that is becoming rather popular and, in my view, producing some of the best music of modern times. I would like to see ‘Anti-Pop’/‘Antipop’ come along: a genre that looks at the mainstream but takes Pop music and gives it something different. I feel any genre/sector that suffers from quality/originality should have an opposing movement. Folk artists of today, whether they class themselves as Antifolk, are, as I stated, more nimble and evolved than their colleagues of the past. What appeals about Antifolk is the fact it is not so much as counter-culture against the 1960s’ sound but a separate entity that promotes all the finest elements of music. As I will explain – when it comes to Erin K – she is someone who has a ‘Folky’ background and appreciation but keen to project her life experiences and true voice – unconcerned with talking about politics and life in a rather traditional and stiff manner. Fundamentally, we need to ensure genres are kept traditional but, at the same time, progressive and modern. That can be quite hard but, as we see with Pop and Indie, bands/artists are capable of doing so. There are a lot of Folk artists who still stick to that early-Dylan configuration and rarely extend their imagination and work beyond that. It is good we have this band of wonderful artists who are tackling rigidity and creating brilliant music – it is the female artists (as opposed to the men) who, I reckon, are ahead of the game.
PHOTO CREDIT: Shervin Lainez
Following on from that; how many modern songs (or historical for that matter) do you hear that have a combination of quirk, humour and interesting stories. Interestingly, I was recently at the BBC Radio 5 studios discussing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with two other chaps. The questions we were debating was whether the album, fifty already, is overrated and is misleadingly labelled as the best album of all time. Steve Lillywhite – respected and prolific producer – argued the songs were too twee, inconsistent and muddled; the concept, what there is, is loose and abandoned after the opening track; it is not nearly as good as other Beatles works. Me and Howard Goodall – a respected T.V. and film composer – took the opposite approach: it is more than the quality of songs; the legacy and inspiration it provides to modern artists cannot be ignored; it changed Rock music and the way albums are recorded. Anyway, inside the debate was a direct, and rather harsh, slam against McCartney’s inclusions When I’m Sixty-Four and Lovely Rita. Both are character-driven, funny songs that show his sensitive and playful side – he would balance that with the tear-provoking She’s Leaving Home to show what an emotional and creative spectrum he had. What I love about both songs is how unconventional they are. Even in 1967, few bands were penning songs about traffic wardens and romantic pleas regarding old-age. Whether, like Lillywhite, you see them as rubbish and silly (Lennon called When I’m Sixty-Four “Granny music”) or a necessary antidote to overly-personal and serious music; it will be divisive and interesting. Erin K, like McCartney, is wonderful at creating songs that have humour and charm at their heart but she goes beyond that. On Little Torch, her current album, one can discover funny asides and vivid narratives; slice-of-life tales and subjects few cover. One of the reasons I was aghast at Steve Lillywhite’s spit against Sgt. Pepper’s’ lighter moments is because, to me, they are great songs and necessary balance against the tougher, more draining songs – A Day in the Life and Getting Better.
The celebration of friendship and substance assistance, With a Little Help from My Friends, has that rare Ringo lead and incredible uplifting chorus, The lyrics, getting by against loneliness and romantic strains, are comical and hugely memorable. It is a song that fills you with song, cheer and smiles – Lillywhite hates the song, as you’ll be unsurprised to discover. If an album were full of those songs then it might get a bit tiring/grating but, contrasted with tender and introspective songs; it makes an album more whole and nourishing. That is what I love about artists like Erin K. She takes a different approach to music and presents different angles and insights throughout Little Torch. I will look at Pay to Play because it has a radio-friend vibe but, as I’ve been saying, has personality and humour; a mix of directness and rebellion. As much as I appreciate artists who talk about politics and the self – my favourite song (Burn the Witch – Radiohead) and album (Writing of Blues and Yellows – Billie Marten) of last year fall into that category and are amazingly inspiring works – it can be hard pushing against conventional wisdom and giving the public songs that possess more spirit and adventure. There is that over-reliance on relationships and love when it comes to inspiration and that often leads to negativity and anger – few love songs have positive messages and optimism. Those who stay away from love – and what they think is needed and popular – and think about it; they will generate much better and interesting music if they look around them and their everyday encounters. There is, literally, a world of inspiration out there one can source from. If it is a trip through town or an odd event; writing about a film you like or a memorable phone conversation – these are the kind of things few artists commit to tape. Maybe there is subjectiveness when considering public interest but I feel there are too many opportunities being wasted.
In terms of lyrics, as one will see through Little Torch, there is everything from ‘friends with benefits’ – the joys of casual sex with no strings – and hybrid animals; a bit of missed connections and the frustrating drawbacks of a city existence. I have mentioned names like Courtney Barnett and Kate Nash: artists who cover these sort of topics and the less-represented aspects of modern life. I am a fan of both artists and each has recently released new material. It shows Antifolk has a lot of mileage left and is inspiring some great young artists. What I love about artists who take a bold approach to lyrics/music is how much of a window you get into their life. If you hear about life and personal anxieties; there is a natural limit to what you will learn and how interesting that will be. Erin K is someone who can write about conversations and public transport woes and let you into her unique mind and day-to-day. It gives you a glimpse into problems we all face and, because of that, is relatable and easy to understand. We have all got on the wrong train or missed the last bus: the agony of being within seconds of that crucial connection is enough to inspire a murderous rampage. Similarly, those loose friendships and boundary-less bonds are areas some/most of us will have some exposure to. Erin K has written about hybrid animals and, whilst not as common as other areas, is an intriguing idea. Simply reading about the song themes and ideas makes you excited to hear what’s coming. Once you are inside a song – and get to hear her mind working its magic – it is impossible to not to imagine unfolding scenes and the heroine narrating her plight. With artists such as Kate Nash planning a new album; it is a great time to be in the Antifolk movement and discover the fantastic, largely female, artists have their say.
I shall move onto the net topic soon but, before then, wanted to look at Erin K and that mouth of hers! That sounds like the prerequisite to severe admonishment but, rather than reprimand her, I wanted to add some kudos. Profanity and a loose tongue can, in the right circumstances, feel necessary and right – too many artists swear without reason; maybe to seem ‘cool’ and trendy. Listening to artists like Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé; their current albums have some swears but, in context, are fully warranted. In fact, in the case of Beyoncé, her Lemonade-fuelled expletives were provoked by a duplicitous and dishonest husband and the stench of cheating – few would begrudge her the opportunity to get that out of her system. Kate Nash, by contrast, is more casual with her swearing but has that London accent and girl-about-town persona. She has dated some rejects and encountered enough idiocy in her life. Again, she is not excessive or needlessly crude. In those case, where you yearn for some passion and free expression, it can add some spice and authority to a song. Erin K, by some reviews, has been accused of being potty-mouthed but is a young woman who will not be told what to do. It is not like every number is filled with four-letter rudeness and crudeness. Erin K drops the F-bomb when needed and lives in London. The rush and stresses of the city compel a certain ‘honesty; having dealt with transport miseries and issues of sex and trust; there are going to be occasions when her language gets a little less sophisticated and varied. Her expletives are never designed to shock and provoke: they are part of a natural and honest musician who wants to project a certain transparency and integrity through her music. So few artists reveal who they are in music – they are hiding behind pretty words and reluctant to display anything human.
I shall leave that subject for later but wanted to combine a couple of topics: performing at high-profile events and selling out big venues. Erin K has played at the Olympics and Paralympics which is not something many people can claim. The sheer nerve needed to play in front of millions is staggering but the fact she was so natural and (it seemed) at ease shows what a consummate and confident performer she is. Even though her career is not that developed and old; she has those credits on her C.V. and that is a big positive. You do not get booked for those kinds of events unless you know your music is going to translate and prove popular. It shows what atmosphere and occasion and Erin K song has. She might claims she’s had more important gigs but that experience has given her a taste for arenas and larger spaces. She has proven she can fill huge venues and ensure her music resonates to the masses. Erin K has a sort of dual-nationality – both in the U.S. but living in London – so she has so many options when it comes to performance. In London, she has played headline shows at Union Chapel and Bush Hall. The latter is an Edwardian building that has been transformed into a live music venue. Situated in Shepherd’s Bush, it has that cool blue exterior and seems like it could comfortably nestle in an area like Hackney or Shoreditch. Walk inside and it has that grand and ornate feeling. Those contradictions and chills make it a desirable space for musicians and punters alike. It is an honour being a support act at Bush Hall but Erin K has headlined there. Same goes for Union Chapel which is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful spaces in London. Many might assume, given Erin K’s woman-of-the-people style, she would play some of the less-well-developed and grittier venues around the capital. I’m sure she has – and we needn’t stereotype – but having a broad musical palette means her gig opportunities are equally widespread and varied.
Union Chapel, as I hinted, is a special space and a definite dream location for many musicians. I will not blaspheme insensitively but one can pray at the altar of music and worship the best new bands and artists at Union Chapel (perhaps I didn’t try as hard as I hoped!). Alongside St-Giles-in-the-Field and Old St. Pancras Church, it forms the Holy Trinity of music venues in my view. Certainly, they are among the prettiest and most spectacular. Not reserved for Folk and Classic artists; there is an adaptable space and open-minded audience that welcomes all kind of artists through the doors. Union Chapel is somewhere I have always wanted to visit: I can imagine watching a gig there stays in the mind for years to come. Having performed at the Olympics and somewhere more intimate and confined such as Bush Hall would have given Erin K a fast and vital education. She has demonstrated she can pack an intimate venue like Union Chapel but show enough confidence to impress millions of T.V. viewers. Still a very young artist; some would argue that sort of pressure and expectation would be too much for her. Where does she go from here?! Maybe a gig at Wembley or somewhere like the 02 Arena, perhaps? That seems like a likely future but, for now, there are other venues around the capital she could explore. Being American, Erin K must hanker to return to the country to play some gigs. Knowing a bit about the New York scene – the differences between artists in Brooklyn and The Bronx; a different flavour in Manhattan and Queens; Staten Island and its musicians – there are so many possibilities for her there. Some would say she’s be perfectly suited for Brooklyn (in terms of her sometimes-colourful language) but has that cosmopolitanism that would be perfect for Manhattan. Certainly, she’d go down a storm in Los Angeles and could get gigs in Nashville and other parts.
PHOTO CREDIT: Andrea Caristo
Whether she chooses to embark on a U.K.-wide tour or do something international, that will be down to her. I could see Erin K travelling around the country and taking in some of the biggest cities. One suspects continents like Australia and Europe would lust after her – maybe worth some consideration later this year? It will be exciting to watch Erin K grow and develop because she is a definite star-in-waiting. Already, her fan numbers are huge and she has an affectionate army supporting her. The fact she has tackled huge gigs and headlined at places like Union Chapel gives her that air of authority and stature few of her peers possess. There is an intoxicating aura of professionalism that surrounds Erin K: one that juxtaposes a youthfulness and controversy – I shall fondle that particular area later on. I have discussed women in music and how the focus is often on the way they look – rather than what comes out of their minds and mouths. One need only take a quick glance at Erin K to see how striking and beautiful she is. There are established Pop stars like Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga who are stunning and have had to face sexism and discrimination. Because they are confident and beautiful women, they have managed to navigate the pitfalls of the industry but still get judged on how they look and conduct their private lives. Erin K has similarly gorgeous looks so I hope she does not have to tackle too many small minds and male attitudes. Certainty, her brash and compelling music is direct enough to eradicate any sexism. Put that together with her exceptional songwriting and unique voice and one sees a young woman not only prepared for the demands of the mainstream but eager to succeed. Maybe she does not quite fit in with the rather clean and inoffensive Pop music – although many of its artists are quite revealing and flesh-baring – and will form her own niche. That said, Kate Nash manages to get great gigs and is very much respected and loved by critics – all of that whilst able to fit into the charts and get airplay across a range of stations. That sort of malleability is something Erin K has. I cannot wait to discover what happens next and whether she can ascend to the mainstream.
The last thing I will mention, before reviewing her music, is the impressive background and story of Erin K. Originally from Texas; she moved to London as a child and – aside from three years in New York – has established herself in Britain. BBC Radio 1 and ‘6 Music’s Tom Robinson have highlighted her music; Absolute Radio and Kerrang! have too. Erin K has performed at five Italian tours – in a country where she runs camps for children suffering from haemophilia – and been featured by The Guardian. She has toured Europe and seems to divide her time between the U.S. and U.K. A few years back, Erin K (Kleh) performed with Dutch émigré Tash der Braa and played a series of acid-mouthed songs with graceful, beautiful melodies. Those contrasts made their music to unusual and exciting. The lyrics employed, that continue into Erin K’s latest album, talked about emotional and romantic pains – including eyeballs being gouged out and insides being ripped to shreds. Their inventive rhymes (coupling “hardcore style” with “Caucasian denial”) stood apart from their contemporaries and led sources like The Guardian to write effusive, awes-struck features. A mix of Emmy the Great, Flight of the Conchords and Pam Ayres – they have been mentioned in the same breath – the duo certainly distinguished themselves from the pack and a new brand of music. Erin K, throughout Little Torch, keeps the flame alive and has a refreshingly laid-back approach to song titles and popularity. There are saucier titles and songs that don’t exactly beat around the bush – unless that is something Erin K is asking for – and has a bracing directness. Pay to Play, I shall look at soon, could score summer gatherings and is up-tempo and addictive composition. No Control is one of the most accessible takes on the album whilst Off to Bolognia Saving Centipedes and I Just Ate Sh*t show the sort of ‘charm’ and concepts one can discover. A lot of the lyrics blend colloquial with uninhibited but it is the music, constantly unpredictable and future-focused.
It is rare discovering a musician who can create a stark contrast between subject and composition but ensure the song is cohesive and focused. I know Erin K has been in music for a few years – and honed her work over time – but she is relatively new; discovering who she is and where she’s heading. Little Torch draws from her background and previous guises; the travels and touring around Europe and the vivid and fascinating experiences she has under her belt. When one hears about one-night stands and stalking hot men; you feel it is not too detached from fiction but never scares the listener – always fascinating, funny and impressively well-handled. There is no needless smut and juvenile rudeness. I always draw myself to artists who get the backing of big radio stations: not only BBC but other mainstream channels and a range of music magazines. It is no surprise Erin K is proving popular once you hear her music. It is not restricted to a certain genre/audience and is impossible not to love. A quick blast of her compelling and characterful voice and you are under her spell. Little Torch, that title could have smutty implications, is, as I will show later, a stunning album from one of the most compelling new voices in music. I am glad Erin K is based in London as, not only is she our’s right now, but there are perfect venues right on her doorstep. Bringing together that touring experience and critical acclaim; it cannot be too long before she is playing the bigger stages at the most lucrative festivals around the world. It is a nervy and tough world is music so having an impressive background and huge acclaim is a massive advantage. There are few, given the number of years she has been in music, to have such backing and reputation.
PHOTO CREDIT: Shervin Lainez
The heroine launches straight into Pay to Play and spares little time with compositional flirtation. That is fitting given the themes of directness and manners. Imploring her subject to take their eyes off the pavement – we have rules, you know – it seems there is either commentary on the way people do not, literally, look around them or maybe a dig at those who chide that. Apathy and tension seem to come in as (the heroine and her subject) stand “shoulder to shoulder”. Before, and that pavement starer, is made to realise there is a convention and pre-arranged rules for those who dwell in the metropolis. At this juncture, I get the feeling the nature of the city is being engaged: how it can be a jungle and the compaction once faces. As things progress, the composition comes to roost and provides a cheery smile and relaxed disposition. It is a sunny guitar line that makes you skip along and puts you in a better frame of mind. The heroine lets the strings do their work after her initial presentation; allowing those words to join with the strings and create moods and scenes. I was imagining the city-life stress and the hassle that comes with movement in a crowded area. As things mature, there seems to be more a nod to the musicians’ life and being compensated. Looking at the video – released last year – and one sees images of characters dressed as the noble. We are “lapping up the apathy” and wondering how it got this way. I feel, with the video’s depiction of the regal and stately; maybe it is juxtaposition. Perhaps musicians are made to feel like pawns – there is a giant chess piece in the video and two characters playing – and a lack of concern among those who stream music for free. Perhaps I am speaking too literally and there is a feeling of suffocation and lost satisfaction in the heroine. She paints bold pictures and seems to be struggling against a force of some sort. Maybe it is commercialism and competitiveness; perhaps a slight against the pace of modern life, I guess. The chorus explains nobody is really in charge of us: I guess, as Erin K explains, we all pay to play.
PHOTO CREDIT: Shervin Lainez
It gets me thinking about music how there is a lack of management and discipline. Artists are not sufficiently fostered and provided guardianship; the listener is free to access a range of songs for no cost at any time. We all need to be more aware of the ethics and morals behind music downloads: how little, if anything, the artist is remunerated for their troubles. Maybe, again, I am being over-literal and taking the title on face-value. Certainly, the heroine is displeased but has a nonchalance and lackadaisical demeanour that hints she has been through this before or knows there is little chance of betterment. We can play anything we want – our hearts and heads tell us to obey – these days which puts a more literal slant on the lyrics. This splits my perceptions into commercialism and uneducated patronage and that hotbed of licensing and transparency. Things are held back out of fear, it is told, which may be directed at artists reticent to release work knowing it will be streamed for free. Artists of a certain calibre might be reluctant to put their work into the market knowing it does not have that commercial sheen and mainstream nature. People like Erin K are outside the established clique and perform at a more respectable level. Looking at the YouTube views for Pay to Play’s video and one can see why she would be hesitant. A fantastic song such as this gathers minor views compared to something chart-based – which can often accrue millions of views within a few days. The choice behind the video’s theme becomes clear as the heroine talks about etiquette and the hoops one must jump through. The knees need to be bent and one must look a certain way. It is almost like readying oneself for a dog show: being prim and proper to a decreed standard. Maybe it is an exaggeration on the way artists have to conform to rigid rules and demagoguery.
PHOTO CREDIT: Giuseppe Gullotta
To me, it is a fitting testament to the divisions that we see in music. On the one hand, we have unabated commercialism and music made for the pre-teens – lacking real imagination and being somewhat disposable. On the other, there are the more respected artists who have to fight harder for recognition in spite of their superior music. Running alongside that is earnings and how much a musician gets when people access their songs. Erin K feels rather put-upon and dictated-to; having to behave a certain way. It only takes a cursory listen of her album to understand the loose language and imaginative, untamed music is a reaction to the limitations. When we burn and there is heartache, some hold it back out of fear – maybe an artist like her is expected to perform songs of a certain type and not look at more emotional considerations. It is an intriguing song whose lyrics hint at many different possibilities within music. Extend it to the wider world and it becomes even more curious. To me, the video perfectly accompanies the way artists (and people) have to curtsey, prostrate themselves and perform tricks. I might be over-reaching in terms of the derivation but Erin K has a great sense of nuance with her words. On first listen, one gets into the mindset of the musician and how easy it is to survive. There are so many pressures and dictat; a great divide between clans and a true lack of self-expression. When you come back to the song, it has a deeper nature; one that applies to societal impediment and nine-to-five displacement. True, I might be wrong on both counts but, perhaps, that is the truth of the song: it means different things to different people and has no single origin. I wanted to focus on this song, as opposed to the new video for Couldn’t, because it, to me, is the truest representation of all Erin K’s skills. Her new single shows the range throughout Little Torch but, in my mind, Pay to Play perfectly defines her talents as a writer, performer and musician. She has created a wonderful and complex song that, if you take away the rose-tinted spectacles, actually reveals itself plainly. It is a perfect snapshot and representation of an album from an artist who has many more years ahead in music.
I shall revert to my earlier point and explain why Erin K is such a proposition but, before then, a quick word on her future and Little Torch. Erin K’s new album is a brilliant insight into a unique songwriter who should, one hopes, encourage similar artists to spread their wings and show the same ambitions. I am not sure how she is fixed for dates in the coming weeks but will be eager to promote Little Torch as much as possible. The London-based artist has already impressed critics and has a solid fan-base – growing larger by the week. I am not sure whether she plans on performing overseas but can imagine she would be very well-received. Surely America is somewhere she wants to revisit. I can see her enjoyed some success on the East and West sides of the U.S. and, perhaps, bringing her songs to new states. There are few that have that same personality and sound so it will be interesting seeing where she heads from here. What we have at the moment is a very bright and ambitious young songwriter who proves she is fully-formed and ready for the next challenge. I cannot wait to see Erin K perform live and hope she exploits the full range of venues and choices around the U.K. It gets me thinking about the summer months and whether there will be festival trips included. I can see her amazing many of the bigger crowds but equally suited to boutique events and smaller gatherings. It seems Erin K has a really loyal base in the U.K. so hope she remains here. Given her U.S. heritage, there is always going to be the temptation to spend some time back there. If she can balance her birthplace and new home – in terms of gigs and personal space – that will allow her the best of both worlds. I wonder whether she will bring any new material out later this year and what that will contain.
I started by looking at the Antifolk genre and what it is all about. As the name implies, it has a reverse attitude to the political and stifled Folk of the 1960s and ‘70s – before then, even. It does not apply to all artists of the time but those too concerned with political protest, stiff songs about love, nature and whatever – those who were a bit too serious and inflexible with their subject matter. There are Folk artists that do that today and it extends beyond the genre. I feel a certain rigidity can be good in contrast with more widescreen music. The trouble is, and why this movement of Antifolk came about, was the over-reliance on a certain theme and sound. Luckily, we have artists in every genre willing to rebel against those who expend little personality and energy. Erin K throws so many different sounds into Little Torch. There are accessible Pop compositions and more humorous numbers; harder elements and spritzes and sprays of various sounds. It is her Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – in terms of the genres and sheer variety of songs – and a record that should be savoured. What one finds with Erin K is a lot of wit and honesty. Erin K is a young woman not afraid to hold back and keen to shame those small-minded (and small genitals) boyfriends who waste her time. Comparisons have been made to Kate Nash and Lilly Allen and there is a bit of that. Both of these artists have a distinct accent and a balance of sweetness and telling-it-like-it-is. Their swagger and composition reach – sunny jams and Rock snarls working on the same album – impressed critics and have inspired artists like Erin K. She has been compared with our very own Mel and Sue – at least in her duo days – and a filthier version of Pam Ayres. Erin K looks around her and the bustling streets: the countryside and common boredom of everyday life; all the mundane and extraordinary mixed together. Little Torch is her reacting to life as openly as possible.
I love the fact she is so ‘direct’ and unafraid to keep much back. Yes, you get some profanity (a lot) and rather risqué scenes but that is all part of the charm. You find yourself smiling along as the heroine talks about her past conquests and misadventures. Against the commuter rush, she sometimes gets lost and confused. Those missed transport connections and stresses of the morning rush are in the mix; hybrid animals and those ‘special’ friends – who share more than conversation. One not only hears a wide range of themes and ideas but a marked contrast to most modern music. It is certainly a lot more variegated and interesting than older Folk and is as youthful and fascinating as you can get. Erin K’s sharp and tender pen strikes a balance between brash and vulnerable – you never feel like she lacks any confidence or soul. It is not bad being compared with other artists; I feel Erin K has a very different background to our artists like Lilly Allen and Kate Nash. Whilst Allen is not recording at the moment; Nash is preparing new material so it will be interesting seeing whether those comparisons continue. Both have a similar sting in the tongue but I find Erin K a broader and more consistent artist. She is someone with a different spectrum and a much more engaging and appealing set of stories. It is that voice that gets to me: a mix of sweetness and confidence that, at one moment, takes you by the heart; the next, it grabs you by the balls. There are so few musicians that have a sense of openness and wit. So many are too serious and rarely reveal anything aside from romantic issues and misery. There is so much to be said of Erin K and her brand of song. Let’s hope Little Torch finds a companion down the line: already establishing itself as one of new music’s finest albums of 2017.
I talked about Erin K and how she has played at the Olympics and Paralympics in the past. Even if you are one of the minor artists on a bill, the fact you are being seen by so many people must create excitement and nerves. Her music has been seen and heard by so many people: the pressure to get the performance right must have been really intense. That said, it is a fantastic appearance and, as stated, a valuable performance experience. She has shown she can play to a huge crowd and ensure her music translates and effects. There is a definite star quality to Erin K and a humbleness that makes her impossible to dislike. I feel she has many more years left in her. If Little Torch is an indication of where she is now; a roaring fire is soon to stalk us all. It is beguiling seeing the sheer scope of the L.P. and all the ideas and visions once can sample. I have written many pieces about equality in music and not being judged on your gender, race and looks. There are many Pop stars with the beauty of Erin K who are either reduce to their appearance – and made to flaunt it to the public – or show no shame when it comes to promoting their sexuality. Sometimes that is for commercial gain and attention but is that something we want to enforce at a time when feminism and sexuality are such big talking-points. Sure, a woman can expose flesh and have pride in her body – that confidence and self-worth are important assets. I feel music, alongside other industries, are doing little to stamp out provocation and over-sexualisation. It creates a negative culture and makes it harder to fight causes such as gender inequality and sexism. What I do know is artists like Erin K let their music talk and prove, as she does, they are more than equal to their male peers. In fact, there are so few male musicians doing what she is it makes me wonder how long until sheer gets a big festival headline slot.
There is still too much sexism and lacking opportunities for female artists. In a recent article, I wondered why artists like Beyoncé, Björk and Laura Marling could not headline Glastonbury. It is not good enough, in 2017, having to make these kinds of points. I know there will be gradual change but the fact it has taken this long – if, indeed, it does happen – to evolve music. I feel acts like Erin K make a great case why we need more women in the headline slots. In terms of quality, they are not only deserving but superior (in many cases). It makes you wonder whether there is that boys’ club mentality that still stenches up the music industry and refuses to put the toilet seat down. I’ll end things soon but want to finish up by talking about how cool it is seeing Erin K headline venues like Union Chapel and Bush Hall. These are two of London’s best venues and really beautiful spaces. I am especially fond of Union Chapel and love those intimate and dignified buildings. There are more and more churches and chapels doubling as music venues which is proving tantalising for musicians. Not only do they escape the corporate and soulless venues many of the mainstream acts play but they are surrounded by staggering architecture. I have never been to Union Chapel but, when the right act comes along, am keen to get there. The same can be said for places like St. Giles-in-the-Field which must rank as a couple of the capital’s finest-looking venues. There is something captivating about walking through the gardens/grounds to get to these places. Once inside, the atmosphere is different and there is something warming and ethereal that runs through you. Erin K has performed at larger venues but, one feels, has a certain bond and affection for these richer spaces. Let’s leave things now but I will suggest people familiarise themselves with Erin K’s Little Torch and all it holds. I have focused on Pay to Play as it is, to me, the standout and one of the most accessible tracks. There are some who, like Episcopalians, want to shield their ears to anything sexual, rude or impure. There are others who feel, if down tastefully and comically, there is a good case for musicians giving it a bit of a welly. In the case of Erin K we have seen exactly what she is capable of so I would assay (in regards the profanity) we sit back and…
LET it flow like wine.
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