If you read what other reviewers have written
about Dan Carney, whose musical alias is a plural one, you might
expect ambient soundscaping, electronica and other esoteric meanderings
but 'Civil Engineer' is a tightly played and smartly produced
song about, yes actually about civil engineers, those hitherto
unsung heroes of council building departments, the designers of
roadways, of bridges, of tall buildings, without whom our civilisation
would collapse into a dusty pile of rubble. 'I'm the one they
call upon / when things go wrong in the town' sings Dan, and the
music reflects this lyrical vision of the continuing efforts of
planning committees, architects and town councils to fill those
potholes while minimising disruption to traffic. 'Civil Engineer'
clicks and spins like a very well oiled machine, reminiscent of
(among others) Doves and Athlete in its electronically fuelled
Varley - 'Seize The Night'
If you've already heard 'Seize The Night' you won't need to read
this review but, if you haven't, then I really need to alert you
to the presence of one of the most significant singer songwriters
of recent years, and Will Varley has some competition in that
department from such as Jake Bugg, Passenger and others but, probably
quite deliberately, he has written an absolute classic of a song,
one that is going to be heard by a very large number of people
in the next year or two, a song as memorable as James Blunt's
'You're Beautiful', as Poison's 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn', Crowded
House's 'Fall At Your Feet'', the Stone's 'Wild Horses', the kind
of song that music careers are made with. Whether it goes that
far for Will Varley isn't yet known, but 'Seize The Night' is
quite definitely going to find its way into the open mike session
repertoire in only a few months from now, just as soon as everyone
figures out that opening chord sequence.
1975 - 'The Sound'
I had some very critical things to say about
the 1975 last month, with their single 'Ugh' not getting any kind
of positive reaction from me but after listening to 'The Sound'
I am altering my opinion significantly. A slightly above average
electropop tune with yet another weirdly twisted lyric, rhyming
'junkie wannabe' with 'epicurean philosophy' and I'm getting the
idea. The 1975 are the most innovative band of their generation,
with that glossy shopping mall powerpop muzak and a lyric that
you didn't quite hear first time, subverting the mainstream from
within and with the practised ease of bona fide superstars that
can easily afford to send up themselves, their audience, the music
industry and the entire Hollywood Boulevard book of clichés
with practised relish. Doesn't mean you've got to like them though.
The Tubes / Sex Pistols / Robbie Williams got away with it and
the 1975 don't care a lot about what I or anyone thinks about
to 4 – Tip It EP
U.K.-based singer-songwriter and musician Phil
Goss records under the name 5 to 4 and he just self-released a
3-song EP titled Tip It on January 12th. It was produced by both
George Atkins (‘Tip It’ and ‘It’s Not That It’s Not’) at 80 Hertz
Studios in Manchester and Sam Parkinson (the instrumental ‘Walk’)
at Stonegate Studios in North Yorkshire.
Goss actually released his debut album, Dream Diary, a decade
ago and has only now recommenced his foray into the music world.
He translates his interest in progressive electronic sounds on
the 3 tracks of Tip It, plying an adult contemporary style on
the two songs with vocals and a more experimental take with his
instrumental. The title song hums along with repeatedly punched
piano notes, a steady beat, and Goss’s medium range tone. He sings
urgently that “…the stars fade in and out / over the edge.” Via
Goss’s lyrics, he searches for what is beyond what we can see
and feel as the piano notes become darker and little electronic
squiggles flit about.
On the piano-driven ballad ‘It’s Not That It’s Not’ Goss becomes
a reflective balladeer. Subdued symphonic strings are pulled in
the background at the beginning before bright piano notes take
over, along with strummed acoustic guitar and other stringed instruments
and a fuzzier trip-hop beat. Goss sings in a clearly enunciated
and halting tone that “It’s not that it’s not that anymore / It’s
just that the rules have changed.” The sing-talking vocal delivery
Goss adopts on the verses of ‘It’s Not That It’s Not’ is reminiscent
of David Bowie’s distinctive intonation.
The instrumental ‘Walk’ employs keening, flute-like synth notes
and tinkering metal percussion during its stark start before it
opens up with starry synth runs, a thumbed bass line, and the
sharp press of high-pitched woodwind notes. At its end it switches
over to a simple pattern of a few plunked piano notes, heightened
synths notes, and the contemplative plucking of a stringed instrument. https://soundcloud.com/5to4/walk
This is interesting. Colour have a lot of Yes albums in their
collection, and mixing that influence with their already accomplished
surf pop sound and an oddly bleak lyric - ' forget the ideal /
for this exists nowhere / this exists for no one' also recalls
Yes in their more obscure philosophical theorisings. Musically
complicated and probably a shortened version of a fifteen minute
three part epic of a track, just add some lengthy instrumental
solos and speed that vocal up, and 'Nowhere' could slide into
an expanded reissue of 'Relayer' without difficulty.
Frisbys - 'Waves'
Twin sisters Helen and Nicola have been making
music together for, like ages, and 'Waves' is a purposefully arranged
piano ballad that gradually brings other instruments as the song
progresses, first there's the piano, then the drums and bass appear,
then there's a trumpet and towards the end a violin makes an appearance
before the song ends with just vocal and piano again. Reminiscent
of, variously, Tori Amos, Fleetwood Mac and Throwing Muses.
I know little of Fleurie herself but 'Sirens' has ensured that
hers is a name that is destined to find itself placed comfortably
within the box marked 'memorable. Right from its darkly brooding
intro, through its drum and bass led crescendos, right up to its
overwhelmingly dramatic orchestral ending, everything about 'Sirens
works spectacularly, and Fleurie's vocal provides a subtle counterpoint
to the epic qualities of the music. Much more like this and I
think Fleurie could find herself contemplating actual stardom.
of the very large scale sort. https://soundcloud.com/fleuriemusic-1/sirens
Culture - 'Hoax'
Something a bit unusual going on with Slow Culture, their mid
paced stoner rock contains a sound that doesn't usually appear
on the sort of laid back late night session tune that 'Hoax' is.
Then I find out that among their instrumentation lurks a bass
synth, which is possibly the unidentifiable sound that resembles
a slide guitar played through a chorus pedal. Or perhaps it is
that. A bit less of the Kurt-isms and Slow Culture might really
be onto something. https://soundcloud.com/the-a-3/slow-culture-hoax
Foster - 'A Thimbleful Of Milk'
It took me approximately 1 minute and fifty seconds to really
hear what Josephine Foster is about. It needs to be said that
her voice is of the archly exaggerated Kate Bush school of vocalising,
and for around half of the duration of 'A Thimbleful Of Milk'
I wasn't even quite sure what language she was using. Then at
the 1.49 mark I can suddenly hear the song, its guitar and mandolin
interplay, and Foster's voice takes on a sudden clarity. Obviously
a highly skilled and adventurous performer (expect to hear interpretations
of words by James Joyce and Rudyard Kipling on her upcoming album),
Josephine Foster's voice is, it does sound a little deliberately,
something of an acquired taste for those that can hear what she
brings to her songs and songwriting, although no less charming
and musically eloquent for that. https://soundcloud.com/firerecords/josephine-foster-a-thimbleful-of-milk
Indian Burial Ground -
I was half expecting a rewrite of 'Rockaway Beach' but this is
more grunge than garage punk and, I cannot quite figure what it
is really about, as a bearded rollerskater heads off for the actual
Burnout Beach (it's near Sacramento) on his rollerskates. And
that's about it from a band with a name that makes nearly as much
sense as their song and video. Someone at the New York Times likes
them so I suppose they must really have it going for them.
Love – ‘Duke’
Julie and Suse of Scottish duo Tuff Love play self-described
“aggressively melodic” songs and have released 3 EPs so far titled
Junk, Dross, and the latest Dregs, which came out in November
on Lost Map. Debut album Resort is scheduled for release February
5th or thereabouts and excitement is high for it. The duo’s latest
single from off the Dregs EP, ‘Duke’, is a prime example of Julie
and Suse’s perfect pairing of tuneful indie pop and more gritty
Julie’s light and sweet vocals glide over the tempestuous cymbals
hits, running drum beat, and wiry strum of guitars. She wistfully
coos about an “awkward” situation, questioning “What’s it all
about?” while backed by frothy cymbal ticks, an angular guitar
pattern, and pushy drum beat. Her vocals are twinned with Suse’s
on the chorus bits, creating some lovely double-tiered vocal harmonizing. https://soundcloud.com/lostmap/tuff-love-duke-1 https://www.facebook.com/ReallyTuffLove?_rdr=p
Brakes - 'Keep Me Around'
I was just thinking that 'Summer Rain' (better known as 'Pain
Killer') was such an anthem of the previous decade that it might
have taken Turin Brakes over a decade to record a follow up, with
the idea going something like 'if we wait until after 2015, that's
about fourteen years after we released that one song we did that
everyone remembers, so perhaps by now we can relaunch the band
without everyone shouting 'Summmer Rain' whenever we play a show'.
Sorry Turin Brakes, but that might not entirely work as planned.
Days – ‘Screaming Colors’
The indie pop band Violet Days is based in Stockholm, Sweden
and is fronted by Lina Hansson. She brings a vividly emotive streak
to the band’s latest single, ‘Screaming Colors’, a bold dance-pop
track that would fit like a glove at the top of the pop charts.
The chorus flies by with its big, anthemic chorus with Hansson
exclaiming “Let’s live our life in screaming colors!” amid sharply
reverberating electronic notes and a hard-smacked drum beat. The
tune is upbeat and uplifting, buoyed by its message of individuality
and diversity, and backed by energetic sonics and enthusiastic
vocals from Hansson. https://soundcloud.com/violetdaysband/screaming-colors-1 https://www.facebook.com/violetdaysband?_rdr=p
1975 - 'Ugh'
I had the 1975 filed alongside the Vaccines and one or two other
bands as 'stadium rock that is a bit cool' but I don't like 'Ugh'
very much, the combination of its expensive looking video, the
less than convincing attempt at a Red Hot Chilli Peppers riff
and the song lyric, with its 'he's just a simple diabetic' proving
too much for my previous estimation of a band that, in fairness,
I don't really know a lot about. Some of you like the 1975 more
than I do so you'll download 'Ugh' anyway, but I derived more
actual pleasure from the cleverly pieced together press release
for 'Ugh' than from actually listening to it.
Blonde – ‘Rose My Emperor’
Swahili Blonde is the odd moniker of one Nicole Turley and her
latest single, ‘Rose My Emperor’, is awash in the off-kilter,
lo-fi pop sonics that Turley is known for. It’s one of 8 new tunes
from her upcoming album, And Only The Melody Was Real, which will
be released on January 22nd on Neurotic Yell Records. Much of
Turley’s music seems to exist in a dreamstate that borders reality,
from the unusual time signatures and instrumentation to Turley’s
esoteric lyrics and sometimes mysterious vocal delivery. Her latest
album is an especially personal one as she has dealt with the
aftermath of divorce through her music.
Apparently releasing their 'Ultimate Care II' album in segments,
Matmos seem to quite genuinely evoke the heady days of, well,
I am unsure exactly when sampled recordings of kitchen appliances
and grainy public information film collages were really what you
could have called groundbreaking, but Matmos recapture the experimentalism
of that era with the sort of skill and attention to detail that
suggests that if they decided to make their own washing machines,
fridges, cookers, toasters etc, that they'd be really good at
Yellow Band – ‘Dressed In Her
Singer-songwriter Gerald Jennings is the artist from South Carolina
behind the classic rock project Plastic Yellow Band and his latest
album, Above Gravity, was released near the end of 2015 on ISI
Music. On Above Gravity, Jennings blends his love of 1960s-70s
musical artists with modern progressive rock. The album contains
9 tracks of electric guitar-based rock and piano ballads composed
by Jennings and brought to life by him (vocals, guitar, keyboards)
and the supporting studio musicians Joe Smith (guitar), Joe Hurt
(bass), and Karl Derrick Tesch (drums).
One of the most affecting songs is the last one on Above Gravity,
the reflective piano ballad ‘Dressed In Her Lace’. Light and softly
contemplative piano notes open the track, along with gently pulled
synth strings. A measured beat and acoustic guitar strum are added
with Jennings subsequently coming in, directly and clearly sing-talking
the bittersweet lyrics “Her heart gently weeps / She waits for
relief / dressed in her lace.” Jennings has dedicated his album
to everyone who has lost someone they have deeply loved and he
captures the melancholic sentiments of loss and memory on this
song. https://soundcloud.com/plastic-yellow-band/dressed-in-her-lace?in=plastic-yellow-band/sets/above-gravity https://www.facebook.com/PlasticYellowBand
of Truth – ‘Dreams’
Singer-songwriter Jason Garriotte hails from South Florida and
brings a warm, easy-going charm to his music that he records until
the name Chords of Truth. He works in the acoustic-folk tradition
where his words are as important as his sound, and maybe even
more so. Garriotte released his single, ‘Dreams’, this past December.
He has previously delivered his 7-song Reflections of Reality
EP and a slew of remixes of those tracks that were re-shaped by
various electronic artists.
Garriotte keeps it simple and direct on ‘Dreams’, letting his
troubadour vocals, acoustic guitar strum, and reverberating piano
notes (courtesy of producer Jef Joslin) shine. At times he’s backed
by ethereal vocals, but the emphasis is mainly on his perceptive
lyrics like “Life is full of endless dreams / with potential to
come true…” and “Wisdom must be acquired / before it is known.”
Garriotte’s music has a message, sometimes bittersweet and sometimes
uplifting, about the lives we lead and what we can accomplish
if we put our time and effort into making our dreams come true.
We have to be mindful of how to create a better world for ourselves
and for the future. https://soundcloud.com/chordsoftruth/dreams https://www.facebook.com/ChordsofTruth/