Category Archives: Album review

Review: Time For T – Hoping Something Anything

It’s been nearly two months since Time for T’s official Brighton debut album launch at The Rialto Theatre. So why so long to get the review up I hear you ask? There are a number of reasons or excuses I could give, but the most obvious one is that it’s taken me this long to prize the album out of my car’s CD player! So without further delay, here is it!

Time for T - Hoping Something Anything
Time for T – Hoping Something Anything

Time For T – Hoping Something Anything Tracklisting

  1. Blue Train
  2. Ronda
  3. Back to School
  4. Wax
  5. Maria
  6. Galgo
  7. Rescue Plane
  8. Mary
  9. Olympics
  10. India
  11. Tom Tom
  12. Sleepwalk
  13. Hoping Something Anything

Hoping Something Anything – Album Review

Hoping Something Anything is a long overdue album from a band who in spite of spending significant time abroad over the last few years still know how to pack out a Brighton show in a heartbeat. Their close network of some of the city’s best upcoming bands and acoustic acts certainly doesn’t hurt this, but if Time For T was playing in a dark and mouldy basement, their fans would no doubt show up with candles and clothes pegs for their noses.

Time For T’s self-titled 6-track EP was released in 2015 and is arguably only 4 tracks short of what would have been a perfectly formed debut album. However, by releasing it as an EP, Time For T gave themselves more time to tour, write new songs and gain valuable life experience. The release of their first single from the record, ‘Rescue Plane’, back in 2016 saw Time For T being atop the Spotify Viral Charts. This was followed up by ‘Wax’, with its psychedelic and wonderful video (which you can watch below).

The album features a fantastic collection of stories covering everything from long-distant relationships, tales about what we assume to be ex-girlfriends, school, personal philosophies and much more. Each song is filled with a rich narrative, like a sandwich bulging with filling making it all the more delicious, and has a top quality production to match. You can be assured that the album was not a rushed job, and now that it has been released, it will be just as slow-burning as it was to create.

If you’re into clever lyrics, delightfully twisting melodies and slick grooves, look no further. It would make a great Christmas present for the whole family, so why not get a copy for your nan, mother or that girl that you fancy at work but haven’t had the courage to ask out. Things can only go one way really. Good luck!

Hoping Something Anything Videography

Ronda

Wax

Rescue Plane

Mary

Time For T Links

Facebook

Listen on Bandcamp

Buy on iTunes

Stream on Spotify

Review: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness – Zombies On Broadway

With an instantly recognisable voice, Andrew McMahon is perhaps not known as well by his name but more as the vocalist and songwriter behind piano pop-rock outfits Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin. With 20 years of performance experience under his belt, it’s no surprise that McMahon has gone through many guises, from his first college band Left Here to Something Corporate to Jack’s Mannequin to Andrew McMahon and now to the latest iteration, Andrew McMachon in the Wilderness. Following on from his 2014 self-titled album which included the Gold-selling, cross-genre, US hit ‘Cecilia in the Satellite‘, McMahon’s latest album Zombies On Broadway was released earlier this year in February 2017. Here’s what I thought:

Zombies on Broadway Review

 

Opening with 30 seconds of city sounds from New York, this intro track sets the scene for a metropolitan record, which is soon followed up with the first track proper, ‘Brooklyn You’re Killing Me’. This fast-paced lo-fi industrial sounding track leaves behind the sounds of Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin, with an almost +44 level of intensity in the driving drum rhythms and punchy powerful choruses. I can see this being a real summer festival anthem.

‘So Close‘ sounds a bit more like an early SC track, with its unashamed pop/synth vibe, which is contrasted with the 2000’s r’n’b feel of ‘Don’t Speak For Me (True)‘.  ‘Fire Escape’ sounds quite like the DIY sound of London singer-songwriter Frank Hamilton whereas ‘Dead Man’s Dollar’ has an almost Bastille feeling in the euphoric big beat chorus. Are you noticing a theme here?

The album could be seen in two ways: confused or diverse. I lean toward the latter. Despite moving from genre to genre quicker than a monkey changing branches on the treetops, the consistency of the songwriting and the wealth of McMahon’s musical experience unite the record. The tracks are all piano/keyboard-centred with plenty of hooks, big choruses and lyrics steeped in imagery and metaphor – ‘My heart is an apartment building oin the verge/ A testament to days more optimistic.’ – Love And Great Buildings.

If you’re a fan of the old-school tracks by Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin and can handle your pop-rock leaning more to the pop side of the spectrum and without the overdriven guitars of McMahon’s former bands, then this new album will no doubt be a delight to listen to, with his familiar voice guideing you through his new experiences and music. For first time listeners of McMahon, the album is a real mix bag so there’s sure to be something in there that you like, and I’m sure that it won’t take too much rummaging around to find it.

McMahon is currently on tour in the US with Atlas Genius and Night Riots, playing many sold out shows along the way. He will be over in the UK performing shows at London’s Bush Hall, Manchester’s Deaf Institute, Glasgow’s King Tuts and three UK dates of Slam Dunk Festival. See his tour dates and book tickets here – www.andrewmcmahon.com/tour

 

StevieRay Latham Review

At the end of last month, after receiving his album a few months before, I finally had the chance to see StevieRay Latham performing live, with a support slot for American pianist-songwriter Hans Chew at the lovely Verdict Jazz Cafe in Brighton. It was a packed show put on by Brighthelmstone Promotions and everybody was in good spirits as StevieRay took to the stage.  When he introduced himself, he did so timidly, looking like something of a startled boyband member without the other 4 members around to support him. Then he played, and his music was a literal “fuck you” to his clean-cut image. His patter was honest and witty, talking about his career as a car parking attendant and dishing out anecdotes between the tracks to give his songs a bit more context. Whilst I felt that the songs that he played lacked the occasional solo or slide guitar part, StevieRay artist is the type of artist that Jake Bugg wishes he could be: young, talented, authentic in his songwriting and packing a mean punch with his melodies and lyrics.

Here is my track by track account of his debut album ‘Modern Attitudes‘.

1. Get On Out & Run

Instantly taken back to the Wild West in America,  his narrative is clear and traditional but with a contemporary twist “It takes a million broken light bulbs for just one of them to shine”. The track is driving, confident and assured as an opener to the album, already displaying clearly what Modern Attitudes is about, combining the old and the new to show similarities and disparities between the two.

2. Sunday Blues

Taking the pace down with this Sunday Blues, this track reminds me of Alex Turner’s (Arctic Monkeys) acoustic score for the film Submarine, which is a personal favourite of mine. A melancholic and emotive track, perfect for a Sunday afternoon.

3. It Feels Alright

The opening to this track sounds like a cross between Joshua Radin’s debut album and Let It Be (The Beatles) but then StevieRay’s vocals come in and take the track in a different direction, with a Dylan-like narrative. The track is just over 2 1/2 minutes so don’t blink or it might pass you by like a freight train at the station.

4. Modern Attitudes

Another track which chugs along gently until it reaches a particularly catchy chorus.

Will you remember me when I have gone away,
Will you still wait for me o every single day…

5. Melissa’s Song

A down-tempo slowly winding ballad, which is deeply poetic and contradictorily very fast-paced in its delivery as it slaloms through the hypnotic guitar part, ending as “just a puppet on a string”.

6. It’s Been A Long Time

After opening with a classic blues/Love Me Do harmonica intro, this song rambles along in a mock-Dylan style without ever really going anywhere. For me this is one of the weaker tracks on the album as it lacks StevieRay’s identity and doesn’t venture much north of pleasant.

7. Feather Down Blues

After a rather shrill harmonica intro, not at all like the previous track, the vocals are a welcome respite. It comes back again in the middle of the track and after the second chorus, which I think it could have done without, as the song is over 5 minutes long and as in the last track, doesn’t seem to really go anywhere.

8. South Coast Blues

A return to the confident form of the first 5 tracks, South Coast Blues is another rattling 2-minute-something track with a strong riff to open up and good mix of melodic hooks and harmonic shifts to keep the listener drawn in from start to finish.

9. I’ll Wait For Morning To Come

Another Dylan-style track (Times They Are A’Changin springs to mind), I’ll Wait For The Morning To Come is a good track that lacks any textural or dynamic contrast. A stop-chorus or whispered verse would have done a lot to break us the continuous duo of plucked guitar and held vocals.

10. Take Me Back

A lovely melancholy track, Take Me Back is very visual, giving the listener a vivid picture of a time gone by, which the singer/protagonist is trying to remember. A song about a lost love, as many folk/blues songs are, the lyrics are what stand out about the track for me, making it definitely another favourite of mine from the album.

11. ‘Til The Dawn

 Bringing the album to a close with more brash harmonica (maybe it’s just my speakers?) ‘Til The Dawn is an epic 6 1/2 minute ballad, once more in a traditional Dylan-style.

Overall, for me I think the album would have been better as a 6-track EP and I found the tracks somewhat disjointed and disconnected from each other as the album went on. That said, there are some great tracks in there which show a lot of promise from such a young artist at an early stage in his career. I will be keeping an eye on StevieRay Latham to see what his next record brings.

www.stevieraylatham.com/
www.facebook.com/stevieraylatham
@stevieraylatham

Michaela Wylde – Painted Smile Review

Having only been working professionally as a singer for coming up to a year, Bangor University music graduate and classically trained Mezzo-soprano Michaela Wylde has been very busy carving herself a place as one of the premier singer-pianists in her hometown of Shrewsbury and the surrounding areas, notably Chester and Birmingham.

If you are from Shropshire or the surrounding areas, you may well have already seen her as she is regularly playing at restaurants and bars near you – see her full tour schedule. If you’ve not, then you’ve got something to really look forward to!

Whilst developing her repertoire of covers, Michaela starting writing her own songs, spoils of which make up her debut album ‘Painted Smile’ which I will be looking at track by track below.

The album is far more than a collection of piano ballads, with a number of diverse musical explorations throughout. Vocally it is very accomplished, as is the piano playing which works well with the understated arrangements of strings, backing vocals and percussion. Painted Smile is a coherent and intriguing debut album and I look forward to hearing what else is to follow from the mind of Michaela Wylde.

Michaela Wylde - Painted Smile Cover

1. Lonely In The Dark Pt. 1

Following from an Alicia Keys style piano hook and the building of dark sounding strings, an echoed refrain calls out like a young girl trapped in the bottom of a well,‘It’s lonely in the dark’. The track ends on a brighter note (literally and lyrically) as the music shifts to suggest that the girls cry is to be met:

So won’t you please come and turn the lights on,
and help me to see that the demons are gone

Eerie and sparingly hopeful, this opening apéritif hints at some of the flavours that are yet to come as the album reveals itself.

2. Fools Game

After starting out like a fairly typical 90s R&B piano ballad, the track transforms into a feisty Christina Aguilera style track (without the skimpy outfit and vocal grit) with attitude and charisma in abundance, showcasing Michaela’s well-honed vocal abilities in this dynamic opening song.

3. Not Taking Orders

Through broken chords and dissonant grace notes Not Taking Orders turns into a song about empowerment and breaking free of a person/ people who try to control you. Michaela keeps the vocal gymnastics quite restrained (it’s a pet peeve of mine when singers overdo it) with a chorus of vocal oohs and understated percussion adding texture to the arrangement and giving the song its momentum before it is stripped away again cleverly at the end.

4. All Along

My favourite hook of the album so far lies in the first line of the chorus of All Along – ‘Rightly or wrongly I said goodbye’. With subtle vocal embellishment and waves of piano rising and falling, the track sings about making the mistake of letting somebody go when you realise that they were the one that you wanted, something I am sure a lot of people will be able to relate to.

5. Invisible

A wash of piano supports this song which sings of the pain of somebody else, presumably a friend, which they keep hidden away from everybody but you know is there. The slightly delayed push in the last line of the chorus breaks up the steady flow of the track nicely, whilst still not taking it in a different direction. Vocally, the track sounds very young and sweet, like something by Birdy or a young Norah Jones.

6. Sleep

Haunting dissonances between the vocals, strings and piano make this song seem like a continuation of the opening introductory track as it sombrely sings about restlessness and insomnia, brought on by an overactive mind . Then just when you think that you have the track figured out, it turns into a folk gypsy dance. Great stuff. See a live session of the track below.

7. Tell Me Too

Tell Me Too is a country and western style track, yet another genre ticked off the list on this ambitious debut album. The addition of the guitar brings fresh new rhythms and lead lines to go with the piano/vocal arrangements which we have heard on the album so far.

8. Rely

Fragile and expressive, Rely is a heartfelt track offering salvation to somebody who needs it. Lyrically accomplished and truly beautiful. See a live session of the track below.

9. Change

A fairly typical piano ballad, Change features some lovely piano playing, which really compliments and counterpoints the vocal, guiding the listener through the melodic twists and turns of the song.

10. Run

Sharing its name with a Snow Patrol song, Run has a feel of Keane in the intro, before Michaela turns it into her own in the verse. With tempo changes, stop verses and drop-in drop-out percussion, you get the sense that she definitely know exactly how the track is meant to go. The song has a great hook in the chorus too:

Grab my hand and let’s run run run
Don’t look back just keep moving on
Drown it out and let’s run run run

11. Lonely In The Dark Pt. 2

The twin of Track 1, this coda bookends the album, starting with a more frantic version of the opening line, still echoed and spooky, before the deep piano chords ring out into silence.

‘Painted Smile’ is released on 21st June 2015 at Henry Tudor House in Shrewsbury. Tickets are just £10 and include a copy of the album! BUY HERE

www.michaelawyldemusic.com
www.facebook.com/michaelawyldemusic
@MichaelaWylde

This Is The Kit – Bashed Out Review

After seeing Kate Stables and her quintet performing an intimate gig at Green Door Store last month, I was pleased to be offered the chance to review her album. Here is my track by track breakdown of the fantastically folky ‘Bashed Out’ , a triumph of what folk is meant to sound like. Produced by Aaron Dressner from The National, the album has a great overall sound, with subtly shaded soundscapes backdropping the hypnotic melodies. This album is definitely one of my favourite releases of 2015, and here is why:

This Is The Kit - Bashed Out Review - Kate Stables

1. Misunderstanding

Opening with a smooth solo electric guitar line and sparse background percussion, the album fades in, with the first vocal almost sounding like it’s come in too late. As the track continues, you realise that the voice and the other instruments are in perfect balance, finishing each other’s sentences like an old married couple. This track is quite simply poetry set to music.

Misunderstanding, ever so weary…
Whole’s inner patience, tattered and flapping

2. Silver John

This track reminds me of Feeder’s ‘Tumble and Fall‘ to begin with, but as the track unfolds its asymmetrical phrases and internal cadences work in parallel to four-to-the-floor bass guitar chugging along, forming quite a different creature. As with the opener Silver John is understated, a fragile whisper caught in a breeze and peacefully taken away.

3. Spores All Settling

Led in by the banjo, the procession follows in behind the vocals, which are a little bit higher in the mix on this track. Kate’s voice floats elegantly as she sings about nature, the weather and the inevitability of change in this catchy chorus-less number with a long instrumental fade out, as the parade passes out of earshot.

4. Magic Spell

The driving rhythm of Magic Spell gives this track the feeling of a popular dance track that has been covered or performed in the Radio 1 Live Lounge.  I can imagine somebody like Robyn or Keisza doing a great version of these track, so if anybody knows their management, please pass the track on! As it stands, the track is an upbeat change from the previous tracks, showing a different side to the band, whilst still delivering their sound. One to listen to whilst getting ready for going out.

5. Bashed Out

The title track from the Album, Bashed Out is a simple track which for me is more of a mood piece than anything else. It has some interesting harmonic changes throughout and seems quite thought provoking at times, with obscure lines like:

Blessed are those who see and are silent.

Check out the video for the track, which was released on 27th Feb.

6. All In Cahoots

With a tribal vibe from the background drums, the clear vocals rest gently on top of this mattress of sound. The track, and the album in general has a feeling that you are being talked to individually, not en masse, and that you are witnessing a storytelling with musical accompaniment, which is a very relaxing thing indeed.

7. Nits

Opening like an M&S commercial, you certainly wouldn’t expect this unusual subject matter for the song based on this. Combining the literal with metaphorical, this quirky track is kind of like a slightly psychedelic homage to everybody’s least favourite head tourists, yet somehow it works.

And they’re munching up the green hill
Ripping it up ruthlessly

Lucky little fatties
Happy little fatties

8. Vitamins

Returning to the feel of the first two tracks on the album, this track hails the importance of eating healthily. Opting for a kind of refrain rather than a traditional chorus, as with most of the track on the album, the songs feel more linear rather than cyclic, a category that a lot of pop music falls into. The swells in the music and the instrumental ending remind me of the earlier track, Spores Are Settling.  See a lovely live acoustic video of the track below, showcasing the close vocal harmonies and delicate finger-picked guitar.

9. We Are In

With a real distance between vocals and the percussion and sweeping synth sounds, the track feels a cappella without technically being so. The track a very spacious atmosphere which gives the voice a weightlessness quality, as if it were suspended on a trapeze high above a great canyon below. As such it draws you in, and simultaneously freezes you in space and time.

10. Cold & Got Colder

 Rounding off the album with an upbeat track, made up of 3 bar 6/8 sections – for the non musos reading, that is not the norm by any means – but it feels perfectly ordinary and really works, if at times it may have you a little confused – I know I was when I first heard the song performed live.

Hook line and sinker,
I miss it so strongly

Here is a live version of the track, recorded by an audience member.

‘Bashed Out’ is released on 6th April 2015 in UK/EU and 7th April in US/Canada.
Pre-order ‘Bashed Out’ on Itunes now!

http://thisisthekit.co.uk/
@thisisthekit

Porchlight Smoker – Water Into Sand – Album Review

Porchlight Smoker is a folk/roots band formed of members from the USA, Scotland and London, giving the band an authentic folk sound with a nomadic feel to it, which you would not necessarily associate with Brighton. By combining elements of Traditional American folk, Celtic folk and English folk, the band is almost a complete history of folk music in itself, fused together by a host of quirky (and folky) instruments such as the mandolin, lap-steel guitar, banjo, stand-up bass and clarinet (ok that one is not too common amongst folk groups), and their four part vocal harmonies, which give their songs a communal inclusive feel which projects onto their audiences.

Porchlight Smoker Review - Album Cover Water Into Sand

Water Into Sand‘ is the band’s third offering, following on from their self titled previous albums ‘Porchlight Smoker‘ and ‘Porchlight Smoker 2′ released in 2011 and 2012 respectively. The album was launched with a sell-out performance at Brighton Komedia on Saturday 24th January. Check out my review of the album below and if you like it, it is available to buy online, and the old fashioned way from Resident Records in Brighton.

Porchlight Smoker Review - Resident Records

1. Mary Mary

Opening the album with a harmonica, guitar and banjo in full swing, combined with the first line from a nursery rhyme – “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” – is quite a bold thing to do, but I think that it really works.

This first track, for newbies to the band, establishes not only their sound but also their generation. They are by no means young men, like a lot of the folkies out there at the moment are, but they are not trying to be, and having a confidence to do your own thing regardless of what the trends are doing is something which deserves credit. Coming from a different perspective, this track defines their voice, and it’s certainly one that I want to hear more of.

2. Man In A Boat

Following on from the English folky opener, Man In A Boat definitely has more of an Americana feel, with the pedal-steel guitar, call and response vocals and an unmistakable Southern States vibe. Watch their live video for the track below.

3. Maria Kennedy

The first signs of sentimentality rear their heads in this track, as the singer recalls nostalgically about a lost love (assumingly named Maria Kennedy), with a fiddle and all! This slightly twee track actually has a really catchy melody to it that you may find yourself humming a few days later and not too sure where it came from.

4. A Day in Mid July

This track opens beautifully with the distant cry of a harmonica in the background, reminiscent of old western films and their desolate settings.  The song is a confessional, with the narrator apologising to his parents for his ill-deeds, with the feel of a cowboy returning home after a shoot-out in the desert, except with mention of TV and phones bringing us back to the present day (or not too distant past).

5. US75

US75 is undeniably a hoedown. Grab your partners, swing them round. Do-si-do and shake it down for this square dance style track. If there were folk songs that could make the crowd go wild, this is probably the kind of thing that would do it!

6. Instead

Another Americana track, Instead is a gentle and slow ballad about forgiveness with a lovely wash of pedal-steel guitar underneath.

7. Cleaner’s Rag

Possibly a slight tip of the hat to George Formby’s ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’, this mandolin driven track is a light-hearted relief from the previous track, taking the album once again into a new direction into ragtime, quite far from the previous varieties of folk, but it works really well and musically is a very interesting track with interesting harmonies and instrumentation, without any vocals.

8. If I Had A Way

In contrast to the upbeat instrumental before, If I Had A Way is a somber and poignant song about longing for a lost loved one and pleading to get them back, whatever it takes.

9. Waiting For A Train

Another Southern influenced Americana tune, this track feels slightly old fashioned, but I think that may well be the point. A lot of American folk was written in a different time when lives were very different, so I personally find that it can be hard sometimes to relate to tracks set in this era. That said, I am often waiting for a train, but in a very different way I feel!

10. Homeline

Described by Radio 2’s Whispering Bob Harris as “An absolute gem”, Homeline has a quirky Dylan feel to its melody, with the vocal harmonies giving the track a lovely lift. Check out a live video of this track taken from Union Music Store earlier this year.

11. I Don’t Mind

Rounding off the album with this smooth 3-minute bluesy track, Porchlight Smoker show that they are more than your average folk band, with many strings to their folky bow, guitars, mandolin and banjo. The album is a far-reaching and broad ranging one, and a stong continuation from their previous works which is sure to turn heads in the local and national folk scene.

For more information on Porchlight Smoker visit:  –http://www.porchlightsmoker.com/
Facebook.com/porchlightsmoker
@porchlightsmokr

Paul Thomas Saunders – Beautiful Desolation Review

Ahead of his gig at Brighton’s Green Door Store on Wednesday 19th November 2014, I take a look at Paul Thomas Saunders’ debut album from earlier this year, called ‘Beautiful Desolation‘. With an abstract landscape for the artwork (designed by American artist Neil Krug, who has designed a number of great artworks for artists including Lana Del Ray, Bat For Lashes, Foals and First Aid Kit) and descriptive song titles like “Starless State of the Moonless Barrow“, the sleeve of the CD is giving very little away about its content, other than that its creator must have had a very clear idea in his head about what he wanted from the record aesthetically, and one would assume musically!

Combining an electronic soundscape and clear and confident vocal melodies with punchy lyrics attached,the album really shines and sparkles, like a glimmer in the eye of somebody who is in love.

Here is my track by track rundown of ‘Beautiful Desolation’:

1. Kawai Celeste

For those of you who aren’t necessarily in the know, I will quickly note that Kawai is a manufacturer of pianos and keyboards and a celeste is a frozen pizza manufacturer, amongst other things. Now that is out of the way, the song starts with a pulsing synth which sounds like it could equally belong in a Vangelis film score and a Snow Patrol pop song. The vocals have a floating quality often associated with Sigur Rós, although this time sung in English. The track is warming, reverby, relaxing and pretty out of this world. I have a feeling it’s going to be quite a journey listening to this album!


2. Good Women

A poignant song looking at “good women” and the terrible men that they sometime end up choosing. It is a song about injustice, frustration and the way the world works. The melody, in both the vocals and the synth, is quite beautiful, and the lyrics are just great too, reminding me a little of Death Cab For Cutie’s precise descriptions in their songs:

Good women bed the charmless everyday
They lead the lowest to their rooms, with their eyes flawless and disarming
And he’ll swear he’ll be your doll this time
But those dreams you had, they’ll suffer, they’ll die


3. Appointment In Samarra

The track is about a woman heading off to Samarra, a city is Iraq, leaving behind her life after her husband was assumingly killed in the war. The track is based on an old fable about not being able to escape your own destiny. The melody is anthemic and  moving, reminding me of Starsailor’s ‘Alcoholic’. My favourite line is “breadwinners won’t be baking any more“. Another really strong track keeping the momentum of the openers continuing on.


4. Waking & Evening Prayers For Rosemary-Mai

This track is about a man who is praying that his love returns home to him, rather than being taken to her father, who has passed away. The song is full of yearning, desire and old-fashioned romance and is quite moving. Melodically it sounds rather Fleet Fox-y, which is by no means a bad thing.


5. In High Heels Burn It Down

In High Heels Burn It Down is about the power that a woman can have over you. The video is very stylish and the song is pretty catchy, and as Paul describes it “the most immediate track on the album.” Check out the video below and see if you agree.


6. Wreckheads & The Female Form

This is more than just a song. It is more than a world. It is pretty much an entire universe in just over five and a half minutes. The sounds created are dense and comprehensive, from rich synthesisers to magical chimes. I think the Paul definitely could have a career in film scoring for sci-fi films, probably something that he would really enjoy from his fondness of space exploration and of making music!


7. A Lunar Veteran’s Guide To Re-Entry

“I can never remember the words to this song when we play it live. I have no idea why. This song is all about trying to capture the rushing feeling of a car speeding through a tunnel, I wanted you to hear the trails of artificial light over your head. That image for me was the inspiration behind the production. I think it sounds like a wall of fluid colourful noise.”  (From an interview with Paul by Thelineofbestfit)


8. Starless State Of The Moonless Barrow

Another track with a clear space theme in the title and throughout the lyrics, as the whirling soundscape draws the listener in, like a black hole. Combining romantic imagery and the universe seems to be something that comes easily to Paul Thomas Saunders. “You’re the relentless star that keeps me holding on to yesterdays sunrise“. The interesting structures of his songs keep things fresh and unpredictable.


9. Santa Muerte’s Lightning & Flare

Santa Muerte is a figure associated with death, literally translating to ‘Our Lady of the Holy death’, and is the guardian who watches over the departed. The track is just shy of eight minutes long and is a winding journey with plenty of sights along the way, including plenty of surprising dips as well as swells. Listening to this track is something akin to listening to a piece of orchestral music; rewarding but requiring the right mood and the attention it deserves to be appreciated.


10. On Into The Night

Closing the album, On Into The Night is a swirling finale showcasing several of the production techniques, textures and sounds of the album in a whistle-stop tour fashion, allowing the listener to see Paul’s universe fade away until it is picked up again another day.

www.paulthomassaunders.com
www.facebook.com/paulthomassaunders
@PaulTSaunders

Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were Review

Ben Howard has to be one of the greatest breakthrough artists of the century. The success of his debut album ‘Every Kingdom’ in 2011 earned him a Mercury Prize Nomination as well as two BRIT Awards in 2013 for Best Breakthrough Act and Best Solo Male Artist, besting Olly Murs, Plan B and Calvin Harris! Off the bat of his performance of ‘Only Love‘ at the BRITS, he went to the Top 10 in the singles chart (previously at 190!) and number 4 in the album charts (previously 46), proving that people had just to hear him perform live in order to be captivated by his music.  Continue reading Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were Review

ALBUM REVIEW: Cut The Funk – ‘Weekend Coda’

Last month Kent-based funk quintet Cut The Funk played an intimate gig at Brighton Komedia, as part of their south coast UK tour in support of the release of their debut album ‘Weekend Coda’.  Unfortunately the gig was quite sparsely attended, which didn’t seem to make much sense as other dates in larger venues of the tour had sold out. Clearly Brighton is still recovering a little bit on Monday nights and isn’t willing to take a punt on some funk. Their loss I can safely say.


The set was filled with original tracks from the group, not all too common amongst funk bands who are often limited to Stevie Wonder and Tamla Motown tracks (not that there is anything wrong with that, but it is always nice to hear something fresh!). They played a couple of cover tracks, in the vein of Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis: the more serious side of jazz without going too far off the rails. The group performed extremely tightly as a unit, even if they didn’t look like the most coherent group on stage with their dress and demeanor. The music was intricate and virtuosic, without going too far, which I think is a very fine line on the jazz side of things. 

Here is my track by track breakdown of his debut album, ‘Weekend Coda’, which is available to buy now on itunes for just £7.99.

1. Blue Milk – Opening with a dreamlike Ron Burgundy style scalic passage on the jazz flute, the track drops in just before the 1 minute mark into a classic funk groove as the saxophone takes over the lead for this instrumental head arrangement. Would sound great in Casablanca on a Thursday night!


2. Afroturf – Starting with a particularly rhythmic percussion part which carries on throughout the chirrups of the saxophone and flute, the track is underpinned by bass and guitar riffs which are barely audible, until the brass drops out about 3 minutes 30 into the track and they each get a little space to improvise, albeit quite quietly.


3. (Ain’t No Thing But A) Chicken Wing – Starting with a guitar riff this time, the pitch-bending opening, which is joined by an ambient synth and sparse drums, is simple yet effective. The sax in the verse has a slight Baker Street cheesy feeling to it, possibly playing it a little safe melodically and not venturing too far into the jazzy sphere of things. Whilst I know there is a difference in styles between jazz and funk, I think the track lacks a certain panache and gets a little tired towards the end. Check out a live video of the track below, from December 2011. 

4. The Promise – Very upbeat with some cool synth sounds, funky guitar riffs and precise brass parts, this track has everything that I wanted the previous track to deliver and then some. A really catchy number and definitely my favourite from the album so far. Have a look at the video below and see if you agree! 


5. Art Dart – Spaced and mellow, almost like a Lionel Richie ballad to start, the guitar lines and opening sax parts are smooth, classy and well balanced by the razor sharp percussion. The structure and textures in the last couple of tracks are far more developed than the opening few and come across as far more polished to my ears, avoiding the slight feeling of repetition from some of the earlier riffs.

6. Cut The Funk – As the band’s signature track, from the name anyway, you would be right to expect big things from this number. To start with, it is the first track to include vocals so far, with a chorus of voices chanting “cut the funk” as the track unwinds. Whilst I was hopeful that the song was going to deliver some more vocals, this doesn’t extend any further than some backing vocal oohs and the “cut the funk” which keeps appearing, slightly feeling comedic to me, offering little to develop the track and seeming a curious time to break the vocal silence thus far. Otherwise the track has some great drumming and cool little fills, just a few too few words for my liking!


7. The Velvet Gutter – With the brass not coming in til about 45 seconds into the track, it gives the other instruments a chance to do their thing in the foreground, with a nice keyboard chord progression and some interesting guitar, bass and drum parts going on. The balance is just right in this track for me, alternating between the parts taking the dominance in the mix, whereas at other times the sax seems a little too prominent. The guitar solos towards the final third of the track add a nice change to the texture and sound great.  

8. Funk Credit Card – Opening with a solo breathy jazz flute solo before the beat drops, this instrument has a really pleasing texture to it, contrasting with the typical funk sound in the other sections. The bass solo in the middle stands out in the good way and the general feel of the track is an exciting one. Check out a live video of the track below.  


9. Five Knuckles – A lounge style piano intro with some lovely chords leading into a boogie-woogie track over a shuffle beat, this track stands out from the other by a mile in terms of style. The gallop of the percussion transforms the direction of the album and offers a welcome mix up to the order of play in my books.  

10. Blazer – Returning to the feel of the starting tracks, ‘blazer’ is quite a traditional sounding funk track. The chorus sounds a little too like some of the other tracks for my liking and the effect on the saxophone kind of irritated me, but perhaps that was just me. Have a listen below and see what you think.




11. Herbie’s Grinder – Thanks to the cool fills and interesting harmonies this track is a strong end to an album that for me had its ups and downs. The nice electric guitar solos are the highlight of this track for me, providing a little more of a rocky edge to it. The textures here are nice and the space for the instruments each to share the fill space make up for a slight over-dominance of the sax throughout the album. Hopefully the band’s future releases will sound a bit more democratic and balanced. 

This isn’t really the sort of album that you listen to in your bedroom; it’s much better when you’re going for a stroll, jog, bike ride or drive. The movement compliments the music and helps to transform the environment around you into a funky place to be. The best setting of course is in a jazz club where you can see the band play and have a dance along, so if they come to a town near you for such an event, I’d say that they’re well worth taking a chance on.

ALBUM REVIEW: Gruff Rhys – American Interior

Whilst several artists struggle to get together a collection of ten tracks together to release for their latest album, Gruff Rhys went all out with his latest solo album, ‘American Interior‘, the follow up to his award-winning third album ‘Hotel Shampoo‘, with a complete package including a film, book, mobile phone app and of course the CD itself.



Best known as the front-man of Welsh psychedelic rock group Super Furry Animals ,Gruff has performed in many bands and has experience in a wide spectrum of the arts from performing, recording and producing music, to storytelling, songwriting, film-making and film composition. His latest solo release, his fourth to date, showcases a wider range of these skills than any of his previous albums has explored, with a vast multiplatform release making his new record stand high above the rest of the crop.

“The project is set in 1792 and tells the true story of John Evans, a 22-year old farmhand from Snowdonia, North Wales, who set off to America to discover if the rumours were true and there was a Welsh-speaking Native American tribe, called The Madogwys, walking on the Great Plains. During the course of an extraordinary adventure, Evans wrestled the largest river reptiles ever seen in the Mississippi, hunted Bison with the Omaha tribe, defected to the Spanish in St Louis, discovered imaginary volcanoes in Missouri, annexed North Dakota from the British, and created the map that guided Lewis and Clark on their legendary expedition.” 


Here is my track by track guide to the album ‘American Interior‘. Led by the prominent drums and piano with filtered vocals and plenty of technical wizardry going on towards the back of the mix, the album is a rich cluster of styles, sounds and stories.


01. American Exterior 

The album is introduced with a pulsing synthesizer that sounds something like an alien’s phone ringing in outer space with heavily chorused, flanged and phased vocals repeating the title of the album, as the drums build up to the start of the first real track, ‘American Interior’.

02. American Interior 

Led by rumbling piano chords, and the drums from the intro track, ‘American Interior’ has a slight Ziggy Stardust feel to it. The repeated “American Interior” refrain is used extensively throughout the track in both the verse and chorus sections, even popping up in the middle-8 guitar solo, which leads into the strings playing a somber harmony underpinning the layers of voices and the track becomes noisier without getting louder. Check out the official video for the track below. 



03. 100 Unread Messages 

A driving drum beat and unaccompanied vocals start the track, as the other instruments fade in. The feeling of the track is that of an American folk/country song that you would imagine being sung by a man in dungarees whilst playing a banjo (and if there is anybody out there who chooses to cover this track, I think that would be a great way to go!) but the instrumentation is contemporary with guitars, synths, piano and drums. The effect is that the song has a vintage feel with a modern twist, which I think works really well together.

04. The Whether (Or Not)  

Another quite trippy sounding vocal track, which reminds me some The Beatles songs, such as ‘Tomorrow Never Knows‘. The track combines catchy short pop hooks with an experimental development of harmony in this expansive track, doused as the others are with prominent piano and drums in the mix.  

05. The Last Conquistador 

The Beatles vibe definitely continues with this track, from the narrative style to the simple accompaniment and even down to the drum fills. From the story of John Evans, I assume that this track is about the part when he defected to the Spanish in St. Louis. The outro is spaced and gentle, winding into the next track. 

06. Lost Tribes 

With lots of vocal and synth layers, Lost Tribes in places sounds like a cross between A-HA, Pet Shop Boys and Wham!’s Last Christmas (without the sleigh-bells and cheesy video of course!). 

07. Liberty (is where we’ll be) 

This was the first track that I heard from the album and I was hooked straight away from the seductive string riff, which had the sleekness of John Barry’s orchestration in the James Bond films. The vocals and piano parts work well together, sounding like a 90s ambient dance track. The production is fantastic, mixing in a lot of layers with utmost precision. This is my favourite track from the album after first listen through and I think it will take a lot to shift it. See the official video below. 


08. Allweddellau Allweddol
Just in case anybody was uncertain of Gruff’s heritage, this track is sung entirely in Welsh, probably unsurprising from the title which loosely translates to “Keyboard Key”. The children’s voices loop throughout the track, seeming slightly stranger after the drop at 2:20 where the tempo increases and it started to feel like a bit of an underground rave anthem.
  
09. The Swamp 

A simple riff, simple development and simple lyrics combined to make a simple yet great track.
I’m just a tourist passing you by
I’m just a passenger saying goodbye

10. Iolo 

With the momentum of a moving train, the drums, strings and vocals push this track forward at breakneck speed. Even without lyrics, the music still seems to tell a story. It is possible that this track is about the influential Welsh antiquarian Iolo Morganwg who was around at the time that the story was set. See a live video of the song below.  



11. Walk Into The Wilderness 

One of the simpler songs on the album, Walk Into The Wilderness has a much more typical structure and stripped back production, showcasing the songwriting more than the studio techniques, of which Gruff is clearly a pro at. The exposed vocal over the raw piano chords just past the half-way point of the song show a new vulnerability to the album, which I think is a nice colour to add to the palette. See a live video of the song below.

12. Year Of The Dog

I was born in the year of the dog” is the catchy hook in this track which looks at astrology of the Chinese Zodiac signs. The chorus of verses in the chorus gives the song a warm lift into an almost poppy number. The album seems to be taking the listeners back into reality after the journey it has taken them on so far.
13. Tiger’s Tale


Bringing the album to a close, Tiger’s Tale is an instrumental coda, moving through a lot of textures from the first half of the album in a melodic summary of the record. I can imagine this track being used at the end of the set as the band one by one walk off the stage, tipping their hats to the audience on their way off the stage.