Category Archives: EP Review

New Music Review – October 2015

Over the last few months I’ve been sent a lot of great new music which I’ve unfortunately been too busy to give a proper listen to, but no more! I’ve finally devoted an afternoon to the task and am pleased to be able to give you all my take on a selection of great local and unsigned music which has graced my ears over the summer and into the autumn. If you have a listen and like any of the music, please check out the links provided to see where you can the artists live, buy there music, or just tell them that you’re a fan. After all, it’s only fair that good work should be appreciated. Without further ado here is my New Music Review – October 2015, featuring Gavin Chappell-Bates, Lewis Bootle, Vices, Tommy Sissons and Daudi Matsiko.

Gavin Chappell-Bates – We Are The Ones EP

new music review - gavin chappell-bates

Following on from his charismatic debut EP Black Holes, Cambridge-based singer-songwriter Gavin Chappell-Bates (hopefully no relation to the Norman Bates from Psycho) has released his follow up single, We Are The Ones. Mixing influences reminiscent of melodic American pop-rock with a certain Brit-pop sensibility, We Are The Ones sounds like a new single from an established band, not a solo artist at the early stages of a promising career. With simple and catchy guitar lines and vocal melodies, the song could be a festival anthem if given the chance with its subtle simplicity weaving its way under your skin. Check out the video below and listen to the full EP on soundcloud.

Download on Bandcamp

Lewis Bootle – Friction In The Funds EP

new music review - lewis bootle

The world must be moving pretty fast for Herefordshire singer-songwriter Lewis Bootle. One minute he is getting picked up by BBC Introducing, then he releases his debut EP ‘Friction In The Funds‘, and now he has been announced as Best Unsigned Male in the Best of British Awards in association with Richer Sounds. Just like George Ezra, Hozier and Ed Sheeran before him, Lewis is somebody that you will want to latch on to now before it’s nigh on impossible to see him play live in a venue smaller than a stadium.

The EP mixes acoustic stripped back acoustic vibes with Sheeran-esque vocals (half-sung and half-rapped) in a self-aware showcase of vocal and instrumental dexterity . For fans of narrative, modern and suburban songwriting, such as that of Frank Hamilton and Brighton band Half Crown.

Buy on iTunes

Vices – Forest Floor EP

new music review - vices

Another debut EP, this time from Greg Simpson a.k.a Vices, Forest Floor opens like a bull in a china shop, hitting everything in its path. Musically it has a lot going on, with a strong American influence which brings to mind +44 in places, and elements of shoe-gaze, electronica and in a non-conventional way, jazz. There’s something slightly unorthodox about the music, but its unpredictability and variety is fresh, exciting and enticing. The 7-track EP was released on 19th October so why not try something new today with the Forest Floor EP. Listen to track 2 of the EP, ‘Catholic Funeral’ below.

Download on Bandcamp

Tommy Sissons – Summer of Discontentment EP

new music review - tommy sissons

Mixing spoken word with dance production from St. Longplayer, Tommy Sissons’ latest EP is a socio-political commentary on the events of summer 2015. In Tommy’s effortless and clear poetic style he addresses the election (Who Gives A Fuck About Politics) and respecting women (Be My Woman) amongst other topics,  all the while seeming to scream “what is wrong with my generation? Why don’t people care about anything that matters?” This sobering reality draws your attention to many shortcomings of the youth of today, and in truth the majority of society, in an easy to digest way. You don’t have to be a fan of spoken word or dance music to appreciate what Tommy is doing. He’s a one man revolution, and a true uprising talent which has already been spotted by BBC Radio1Xtra and Channel 4 . See my review of his previous EP Etchings and do yourself a favour and download Summer of Discontentment EP for free here!

Download on Bandcamp

Daudi Matsiko – The Lingering Effects of Disconnection EP

new music review - daudi-matsiko

After spending a lovely sunny afternoon on the beach during The Great Escape, I’ve been a big fan of the guy as well as his music. Just like his music, he’s humble, understated and definitely something special. This cheeky little 4-track acoustic EP is like a mix of Jack Johnson’s guitar, Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s vocals and an overarching sombreness of a funeral .  The tracks are raw like flesh-wounds from falling off your bike as a child, or emotionally somewhere between heartbreak and grief. Yet somehow, hope is not lost. Listen and enjoy a live version of track 4, take me old below and check out the EP when it drops on 27th November.

Download his previous EP on Bandcamp

How to write a music blog

In an age of mobile technology dominated by social media and online press, the power has been handed over from the few to the many, particularly with multimedia journalism. It’s easy to find reviews of almost anything online, from obscure indie films to mainstream platinum albums, but it’s not as easy as it looks to write the reviews.

Here is my 10 step guide to writing a music blog that people will want to read:

1. Know Your Stuff

To debunk what may be a common myth amongst music journalism, you do not need to have a formal music education to write about music. You do not even need to be an expert in the field. But what is important is that whatever it is you are writing about is something that you understand and would feel comfortable having a discussion with a fan of the artist about. If you want to say that an artist reminds you of Damien Rice for example, make sure that you know what Damien Rice actually sounds likes and justify (to yourself at least) why you think that. It is easy to make sweeping statement about music to overgeneralise or to look like an expert, but it won’t be long before your reader’s realise you don’t know your Dylan from your Ke$ha. Know your stuff and you will earn your reader’s trust, and if you are lucky, their loyalty too.

2. Write About What You Like

It is so easy to give something a good panning. By nature, we are critical beings and like to cast shade on what others are doing, and often justifiably so, but I ask you this: why? Who wan’t to read a bad review of something? You have have the razor sharp dry wit of a seasoned stand-up, but if nobody know who you are or your voice, then you are just another sarcastic hater who trashes things online. Unless you really hate something with a passion and feel compelled to warn others against it, I suggest writing about what you love, what you really enjoy and you and your readers will want to read about it – and so might the people who you are writing it about, which is the best way to get your work shared around.

3. Meet The Musicians

It’s easy to hide behind a computer screen or smartphone at a show, but the best way to find out information about a band is to get chatting to them. Most local bands are thrilled to talk about their music with anybody that listens, particularly if they might get a review written about their show from it. So get to gigs early to see the supports and stick around afterwards to get chatting with them. It will give you a unique insight into their music that other will not have and it will be interesting to your readers. Plus, you never know which support act you review might be the next big thing, and they may just remember that guy or girl who wrote about them back in the day.

4. Compare and Compère

Two things that audiences like about music blogs is for the acts to be compared and compered. By comparing particular tracks, or the band/artist in general, with known figures helps people to gauge their interest and also helps you as a writer to compartmentalise the music a little, which allows you to be more specific, which is always a good thing. There is nothing worse than vague wishy-washy music journalism, saying things like “the band sounded like Mumford & Sons on crack”… By compèring the acts that you review, you are introducing them to a potentially new audience so give a little background information – not a full Wikipedia biography. If you are reviewing a show, review the support too. It’s a good way to engage with more people, as support acts and local acts are more likely to share your work amongst their networks, and if you like them, odds are that other people will too.

5. Write Regularly

Not everybody can polish off a swift 2,000 words in their lunch break – and that is definitely a good thing. People have a finite amount of time and attention, so don’t overstay your welcome or become a nusiance. Write when you can, but regulate it. If you know you won’t be writing something for a while after a busy period, why not schedule your posts to go out evenly rather than writing in sporadic spurts every so often. People crave regularity, as much as they may not admit to it, and consistently well written work is the key to gaining and keeping readership of your blog. Keep it fresh, interesting and really care about what you write – writing regularly will really help you with this and prevent you from writer’s block or general writing malaise.

6. Good Quality Images

We’ve all done it, but don’t just grab any old image from Google Image Search for a band. Make sure the images you use are current and where possible signed off by the band. Most bands will have a press section on their website, or at least a gallery of recent images which should be fine to use to accompany your blog. If you can’t find anything, drop them an email to request some images and they will more than likely reply with what you need – after all, it is free publicity for them and it will really make your blog stand out by having the latest and best images to complement your writing.

7. Look Good/Mobile Friendly

Before you start throwing everything you write out at the world, you may want to think about how it actually looks. Depending on which platform you use, there is a lot of functionality and deign elements which you can customise, so it helps if you have a clear design idea in your head for how you want your blog to look. If you lack a creative eye for design, seek advice from friends, as your blog template and theme is like a shop window, and if visitors don’t like it, they are much less likely to stick around to have a browse. Most blogs automatically optimise for mobile devices, but make sure that yours does by testing it on your phone/tablet. Most users will be accessing your blog through mobile devices so if it doesn’t look good then it won’t keep them coming back for more.

8. Check It Twice

Just like Santa Claus, you should check everything in your blog is how you want it to be. Do your image link to the right places? Do your web-links work? Have you spelled all the names correctly? Is your factual information correct? It’s always better to double check before publishing to avoid the embarrassment of being corrected online, or losing reader through silly grammar, spelling, punctuation and formatting mistakes.

9. SEO

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a huge field in itself – people work full time just in this field of IT – but put simply, it about making sure your website/blog shows up when people are searching for the information which you are giving. There are a lot of tools which can help you do this through your blog site which are very simple to use and can have a real effect on online traffic. It is helpful to get into good habits, such as giving articles useful names that are likely to be search terms for people, and inserting meta descriptions for articles and images. If you don’t know what these are or how to do this, its easy to find out online, and this would really help your blog to get noticed.

10. Spread The Word

This should be quite obvious, but once you have your work all polished and ready to publish, be sure to send it out to all of your networks with whom it might be relevant. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube are all powerful tools with huge numbers of online daily users, so use the resources that you have available to you and network, spread the word and take constructive feedback on board to help you become the best writer that you can be. You never know when it may turn into more than just a hobby – it could well lead into a full-time career!

Normanton Street ‘Much Respect’ EP Review

Normanton’s Street latest EP ‘Much Respect‘ has been a long time coming. Fans who have been following the band since their last EP, ‘Phoebe Freya EP‘, which was launched at Green Door Store in Brighton in December 2013, will have most likely already heard some of the tracks from the new EP. It seems that unlike a lot of bands, Normanton Street do not just use their gigs to sell their CD and play the tracks from it but to craft the future of their music by reaching new audiences wherever possible, to add to their substantial local fanbase.

The band have been performing some of these tracks since I saw them play in February and over time they have changed them up, refining them through live performance to make sure that the record was ripe and ready when it was recorded. ‘Much Respect‘ is less a record about right now as it is the logbook of the journey that the band have taken throughout 2014. With fantastic support slots in Brighton, a number of great gigs up in London and several festival performances including The Great Escape, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Love Supreme and Oxjam Takeover, the band are one of the busiest in Brighton, constantly writing new songs, touring in the UK, performing in new places and supporting local talent through their label QM Records, in particular the young poet Tommy Sissons whose EP they recorded and they perform live with.

Much Respect’ was launched in London at The Elgin on 30th October and in Brighton on 31st October, following on from a tour of the UK starting in Nottingham, working their way down the country to their adopted hometown. The Halloween launch party was fully loaded with talent, with great supporting performances from indie-rockers Wolflung, london-based Northern Soul group New Street Adventure and folk/world music from Time For T.  Their was great new music all around with new tracks from NSA’s recently released debut album ‘No Hard Feelings‘ and previously unheard tracks from Time For T, celebrating their first home show in far too long.

Here is my track by track guide to Much Respect. The EP is well balanced in the mix and the arrangements, shining light in all the right places and combining six very different tracks covering a wide range of styles, all performed and recorded with the Normanton Street flair, style and finesse that we have come to love and expect.

If you like it, please do come along to a gig, have a chat with the band and buy a copy. Respect the artist and respect the music. Much respect all around.

1. Fly Lady (Get Money)

Opening with a pornographic bass-line, this sexy song has plenty of sass even before the vocals drop (and when they drop, they drop heavy with a three part harmony/call and response. Phoebe’s vocals have a relaxed free-time feel, something developed as the song has been performed live throughout the year.  The song doesn’t have a traditional structure, more like different sections that take over from each other with equal weight and importance. The sax sits nicely on top of Ned’s deep voice in the refrain, adding a subtle flair to the counterpoint of instruments and voices.

2. New Dawn

Starting with Phoebe’s a cappella vocals floating freely, before being joined by a distant clean guitar, the track leads you into a false sense of security that it’s going to be a chilled out vibe until EVERYTHING drops in with a visceral punch at the verse. The song gives Ned free-reign with his rapping as he tells us a story with a colloquial charm, repeating phrases and turning them into motives (as seen particularly in Empty Space (Mud Riddim) here). Combining a lot of elements in this track too, the precise drums provide the backbone that the guitar rhythms and bass licks cling to, whilst the vocals are clear and punchy (Ned) and delicate in places and powerful at others (Phoebe). A great track!

3. No Drama

Opening with a sultry sax solo, that’s three songs with different solo instruments starting them off; already it is clear that this EP is very well balanced and thought out. The vocals and guitar parts have a hint of the late Amy Winehouse which sharpens as the song unfolds. Led by the female vocals, the track is passed on to Nicholson as he raps, including these fantastic lines:

No spark like a dormant volcano.
A gloomy Vesuvius,
No prizes for who can be the moodiest,
I imply for you to be calmer,
Mary J Blige, No More Drama.

Normanton Street at their Halloween EP Launch – Photo by Lauren Joy Kennett

4. Grass is Greener (Nico Rhythm)

With hard hitting drums and vocal effects aplenty, this track has more of an electronic edge to it, with a clear focus on the production’s sound. The track combines two repeated vocal lines “Nico says I’m blessed so I must be” (Ned) and “The grass is always greener on the other side” (Phoebe) which overlay each other throughout the track as Ned and Nicholson take it in turn to rap verses over the rich texture of a down-tempo drum groove and simple accompaniment from the guitar and bass. Whilst a lot of modern songs don’t have much substance, this one probably has a little going spare! Perhaps they should donate to it to somebody.

5. Rakim (The 26th Year)

Going back to their Hip-hop roots from the early ‘MOVES EP‘, Rakim has a totally different sound to the preceding tracks on Much Respect. The lyrics are very precise, reminiscing on their lives growing up from house parties to football stickers “Teddy Sherringham shiny, no swapsies“, games consoles and other childhood memories in this warming song, broken up by funk sax interludes, almost leading into the dreamlike flashbacks.

6. This Wolf

Ending the EP with this slightly dark and haunting track, the clean electric guitar and Phoebe’s vocals on This Wolf knit together closely, with female backing vocals overlaid, highlighting the vulnerability of the melody when the bass, sax and drums are stripped away. The delicacy of the track is something that is not often seen from Normanton Street, with their style usually being far more upbeat, but this little gem shows that even under the brightest of lights with everything else removed, the exposed veneer is faultless.

Much Respect is available to buy for just £2 online on Bandcamp or Soundcloud

Migration to WordPress and New EP – FREE DOWNLOAD

Hello all! Just a quick note to say that I have migrated the blog over to WordPress which I will be using for future posts. All of the content from has been moved over to the site and the interface means that the site can now integrate with my website too.

On other news, yesterday I recorded a new 4-track EP, which is available to download for free through Soundcloud. Enjoy!

Tommy Sissons EP Review – Etchings

Award-winning spoken word poet Tommy Sissons has teamed up with a handful of Brighton’s busiest performers to create his latest EP, Etchings, which was released at the end of September 2014 on QM Records. Featuring with striking black and white artwork created by local photographer Lauren Joy Kennett, the cover captures the essence of Tommy and his music simply but articulately, demonstrating visually what his lyrics display aurally; working class culture in the south.

With smooth guitars from the guys of Normanton Street, drums from former-Maccabees drummer and St. Longplayer producer Robert Dylan Thomas, bass from Time For T‘s Joshua Robert Nicholson Taylor and soaring saxophone melodies from the talented Nick Webb, Tommy has just the right backdrop to showcase his lyrical and vocal abilities with this smooth and well produced EP which has a real Brighton feeling to it, from the seaside soundscapes of seagulls in ‘Early Wakers’ to the lyrical content throughout. 

Here is my track by track breakdown of Etchings. I hope you enjoy the EP. It available to download for just £2 on bandcamp here. You can stream the tracks to listen to in the player below.

1. Early Wakers

Starting with sounds of waves crashing down and distant seagulls, the driving bass opens the track like an alarm clock, before the vocals wake up and come in. The sheer quality of the lyrics is displayed within the first few of lines of the opening track, spoken at an unhurried pace over a continental sounding lazy-morning saxophone and gentle guitars and bass:

“Rise here with the early wakers
The break of sun-pacers
The fry-up creators
And the desperate for caffeine hot coffee makers
Rise with the homeless
Leave home for your purpose”

2. Fish and Chip Paper Headlines

Definitely displaying the influence of Normanton Street in this track, the slow funk-soul groove of drums, bass and guitar provides the backdrop to this track which looks at the expression “Today’s news is tomorrow’s chip shop paper” in a new context to ask if people think that this is justification for wrongdoings, evil deeds and anything they please, and the cost of this philosophy on society.
3. My Son

My son is a heart-warming track of a dad (or possibly an unrelated older male figure) giving advice to his boy, using his life experience to tell him how things can be, but telling him to pay heed to his words and not his actions: 

“But pay no attention to me my son
I’m set in my ways
My partisan alignment is to apathy
Make no mention of me my son
Do not waste your days”
4. We Are Young

An upbeat track which juxtaposes funk sounds with unapologetically heavyweight youth cultural observations and criticisms. If you are young, you will totally get this and wonder how things went from Pokemon cards and The Simpsons to questionable habits with questionable company in questionable locations. It’s because you are young.
5. Possibilities

With more of a hip-hop vibe, this track ditches the common lyrical themes of the genre in lieu of a warming list of things that Tommy would like to do if he had the time, from the simple “cherish awkward conversations with my barber” to the more adventurous “makeshift a boat from twigs and rope and sail the seven seas“. Possibilities is a masterclass of imagination, comprehensively sincere and utterly moving.
Check out the live video of the track for Clockwork Owl below.
6. If You’re Gonna
This track is another well thought-out lyrical work, seeking not to justify character flaws and unattractive personality traits, but advising you of the blind spots that they may leave you with, suggesting ways to make them more bearable to yourself, and those around you. 
If you speak make sure it’s worth listening to.”

7. Etchings 

A track about making important life decisions, going against the grain, leaving an imprint on society for future generations through etchings, finding your place in society and finding yourself. So pretty much a track about everything that matters, told in a free-flowing storytelling narrative of Tommy Sissons, against the ambient sounds of his band, as the instrumental coda fades out the EP, until the next one begins.