Alive –  Victoria Celestine (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

There is something wonderfully tribal about Victoria Celestine’s latest single, not normally a “go to” sound for those in the pop field but it works brilliantly. Rather than opt for the usual dance infusions and clubland beats to drive the song, taking this primal sound not only makes it stand out but really drives the point home through the simplicity and power of such an approach. We know that Celestine is great at delivering succinct and standout pop, Good Heart To Hide amply demonstrated that, but this time out she proves that she is also happy to break the mould and try something new. And that of course is where the most memorable music is found.

Continue reading “Alive –  Victoria Celestine (reviewed by Dave Franklin)”

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So For Real –  Ed Hale (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

There is a real skill to being able to make music that simultaneously sounds like you have been listening to it all of your life but also the newest, freshest music to waft through the airwaves and it is a skill that Ed Hale appears to possess in no small amount. I guess it is what happens when you combine a wonderful musical imagination with a template that has served songwriters so well for the past 50 years. But just because someone takes the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix out approach” that doesn’t mean that they can’t give it a fresh lick of paint, re-shape, refine, have fun with and add new and exciting sonic detail to it. And that again is something that Ed Hale revels in. So For Real is definitely a case of evolution rather than revolution.

Summer Flowers kicks things off majestically, a veritable heatwave of retro-pop vibes, a flex of rock muscle and some wonderfully psychedelic moves and it is these corner stones that define the album’s personality. But this isn’t plunder, plagiarism or pastiche, for all its backward glance to past glories, songs such as Gimme Some Rock ’n’ Roll chime in tune with bands such as Flaming Lips or Wasuremono as readily as it does anything from previous generations.

Continue reading “So For Real –  Ed Hale (reviewed by Dave Franklin)”

All That’s Left – Michelle Lewis (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

Elton John once sang “sad songs say so much” and it’s probably safe to say that we all have a sad song in our list of all-time favourite songs, those are the songs we are often drawn to, we can sympathise, empathise and relate to these moments of emotional outpouring. We find comfort knowing some rich, famous singer in LA shares the exact same emotions that we do.

Michelle Lewis’s album has more than its fair share of sad songs, but they are mostly delivered with an optimistic outlook, yes, she’s been hurt but she’s still here and not only has she learnt from those heartbreaks she’s managed to channel it into songs and it’s pretty uplifting in parts.

Continue reading “All That’s Left – Michelle Lewis (reviewed by T. Bebedor)”

Borrowed Time –  AALTA ft. Desi Valentine (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

unnamedBorrowed Time is the sound of past musical traditions, modern sonic inventiveness and future music potentials all mixing liberally in what can only be described as a fresh move for pop. For pop this definitely is, but it is pop with a soulful heritage, Valentine’s vocals alone leave that sonic finger-print on the track. But as deft and addictive as the vocals are, this is pop music built also from some gorgeous textures. Rather than the perfunctory, identikit sound of most of today’s chart bound competition, real thought has gone into the wonderfully layered musical threads that form the song’s body.

AALTA is not afraid to leave space when anticipation and atmosphere feel like the appropriate tool, sensual brass is brought in to carry the main riff, again a brave but wonderfully memorable approach and the cascade of subtle harmony vocals are exquisite rather than powerful.

Everything here is built with a soft and subtle touch and it is these wonderful gossamer layers of music threaded together rather than the usual big crescendos and blunt musical statements that actually land on the listener with a  bigger impact and mark out Borrowed Time and indeed AALTA as being in a class of their own.

A quick chat with Colin Moulding

TCI-Photo-credit-Geoff-Winn-2Ahead of the upcoming run of TC&I shows at Swindon Arts Centre I managed to grab a quick chat with Colin Moulding about recent events, a return to treading the boards and what the future holds. This time last year I had spoken to him and Terry Chambers about the release of their e.p. Great Aspirations, so I was interested to know how we got from that record to full band live shows.

“A few reasons really, all those songs I wrote for XTC, when I had finished recording them I just had to wave goodbye to them and I thought it might be nice to hear them in a concert setting as a lot had never been heard that way. This coincided with Terry thinking shall we play some live shows on the back of these new recordings but of course we only had four new songs. I knew he wanted to get back out and play live, that’s how Terry best expresses himself. I thought, I can’t go the whole hog, I can’t go back to a touring lifestyle, I have commitments but I can go half way and  play some shows via a more considered approach.”

Continue reading “A quick chat with Colin Moulding”

Nevertheless –  Trio of Awesuhm (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Trio of Awesome_phixrThere are so many well constructed, clean-limbed and classic sonic lines running through Nevertheless that it immediately feels like a song that you have been humming along to all your life. That simple guitar rhythm, the plaintive piano lines, the jaunty mandolin, they may all sound familiar but the cliche that suggests that this might breed contempt certainly isn’t appropriate in this case. Sometimes familiarity breeds commendation. There’s a new cliche to stick in the book for you.

And the advantage of having an unfussy and sleek tune, one that is happy to just get the job done rather than showboat is that the listener can then focus on the lyrics and this is something that you really need to do here. Trio of Awesuhm offer up a call to arms to all those who think that the challenges that lie ahead of them might be too much, who are afraid to tread new pathways, break new ground, to push at the boundaries and barricades. In its own supple and subtle way it’s a poignant, important and relevant message, it always has been but it somehow seems the perfect time to underline it in these dark days.

Stuff –  Strangely Alright (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a4034941787_16Scientists have always predicted lots of cool technological advances, from jet packs to flying cars, from sentient artificial intelligence to time travel. And whilst we are still waiting for the first three of those to become the every day luxuries they promised, the last of that list has been available for a long time. You don’t believe me. Just go and look at your record collection! Every time you put a record on…yes, I still call them records, get over it…not only do those sounds remind you of the time and place where they were created, they can also act as backward glancing sign-posts or future musical predictions and they also probably remind you of that point in your life when you first encountered the music.

Strangely Alright are sonic time-travellers. They paint paisley patterned pictures that shimmer with the 60’s mercurial blend of darkness and innocence, they mesh psychedelia and pop melodies together, they run rock muscle through the most danceable of tunes, they are the perfect blend of past and present. Their reference points, early Floyd’s whimsey, The Kinks deftness, later Beatles experimentalism, Bolan-esque strut, perhaps King Crimson’s more groovesome output as well as later retro-revivalists such as Redd Kross and Jellyfish, might suggest that they spend their time glancing back to past glories. But as I have said before, they also sound like a band making music for today. Pastiche and comfort zones is not what is going on here and whilst you can probably make a fair guess at the contents of their record collections Stuff is every bit as adventurous as the music made by those they tip their hats to.

Whilst the band seem to either only put out the good stuff or just have an uncanny ability to write songs which feel like single material, The Information Game, for me at least, sits at the heart of the e.p., a brilliant blend of Aladdin Sane cool and modern alt-alt-alt rock (rock that is at least three steps removed from the posing indie kids with the their complicated hair and their skinny jeans). All the songs found here are robust enough to make their own way in the world on their own. Whatcha Gonna Do is a teasing taste of what we might have got if Marc hadn’t let Gloria drive the mini that fateful day, Building Bridges is totally infectious from the word go and the title track is  the sound of the past and the future having a party in the present.

Strangely Alright doesn’t do things by halves and Stuff is as solid a collection of songs as you are going to hear any time soon, the fact that they are building, blending, inventing and destroying any number of genres along the way is just the icing on the cake. Okay, not time travel in the truest sense but it will do until actual time travel comes along.

Pop Thursday : A New England – Kirsty McColl

imagesIt’s odd really. I’m not big on covers or people who feel that they can re-work a song because they can make a song better, more relevant or whatever but one of my favourite songs of all time is Kirsty McColl’s cover of Billy Bragg’s A New England. She took a cool underground song and turned it into pure pop without losing its inherent greatness.

Listen to those brilliant bass runs, those extra layers of guitar textures and of course Miss McColl’s brilliant voice. Instead of the commercial video version I have gone for the superior extended 12″ version. The intro of this is the benchmark for building into a song and as it drops into place just before the vocals come in you get to hear the two most perfectly chosen guitar notes in pop history. You’ve gotta love that.

Scene and Heard – CCCXCI : Dark All Day –  Gunship feat. Tim Cappello and Indiana (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

37227545_1989099424444791_8286371689407709184_n.jpgThere has been a real revival of the glossier end of the post-punk sound of late, I guess a lot of it has to do just with the passing of time. Eighties revivalism has seen slick keyboard sounds and big production move from the old hat category into the vintage section and is thus now cool and referential rather than merely nostalgic and dated. I’m sure films such as Ready Player One has helped things along in no small part.  But to be fair to Gunship, they were doing this long before it became a bandwagon, they were frequent fliers to that decade before the movers and shakers deemed it okay to do so.

And that is why as they pile the references on, both visually and musically, you can say that at least they have earned the right, even revivalists can be trailblazers, everything is cyclical and you just have to chose your moment. Musically they opt for a sultry, late night vibe, one that clashes the neon glitz of the down town back streets with the up town glamour as borne out by the sultry saxophone.

Hints of Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack seem deliberate rather than stolen and the visual accompaniment is not only a clear nod to the beach band in the opening scenes of The Lost Boys (plus the video is set in Santa Carla) but goes one step further, the man behind the gratuitous sax is Tim Capello himself. But as always Gunship do it better than most, maybe the art is to just be honest, to put your hands up and say “hell, we love that era so why not revel in it?”  And why not indeed?

Giants –  Leah Capelle (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Leah Capelle GiantsWe have encountered Leah Capelle in full on pop-rock mode and in the case of Better Off trading sweet harmonies in a stripped back duet with Hayley Brownell. Giants seems to sit somewhere in the middle, the best of both those fabulous sonic worlds. There is a delicacy to the delivery, her vocals wandering between defiant and vulnerable, the delivery between angelic and world weary.

But it is also the great use of dynamic within the song that reinforces its passion and panache, the lift into the chorus…”Come On!” as she finally admits to herself that her relationship is about to end and she is forced to confront the issue head on, is ironically euphoric and wonderfully freeing.

To say that Leah Capelle writes merely pop music is to do her an injustice. Yes, her music shares the same values, infectious, straightforward, relatable, but there is an honesty and maturity that goes beyond what most of the genre has to offer and that is exactly why she is going to be around for a long time to come.

Crocodile Tears and The Velvet Cosh –  David J (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

188556Stock in the Bauhaus name is riding high at the moment. With one half of the band currently working as Poptone and David J undertaking an extensive world tour with Pete Murphy as we speak, it is certainly the perfect time to re-release J’s sophomore solo album, a record which he describes as “ a personal pastoral favourite” and one “that really set the tone for all my future solo endeavours.” And pastoral is indeed a great word to use even if it is hardly one that you would associate with either Bauhaus or Love and Rockets, the band that he would shortly form.

Crocodile Tears is certainly of its time, it sounds of its mid 80’s birthplace both in style and production but like any album which stays in the collective consciousness long enough to be labelled classic, iconic or influential, and this has been called all this and more, it has survived and transcended fad and fashion. Like black and white movies, favourite shirts and old photographs there is a hint of nostalgia to the songs found here from the point of the listener, how could there not be but also enough time has passed that a whole new generation can engage with it without the baggage that it carries. But  you only have to listen to how ahead of its time songs such as Light and Shade are to see why it has survived. I could name 5 modern alt-country bands who would kill to have that on their resume.

Songs wander from the classic singer songwriter such as the folky Justine to the smooth soulful lines of the title track, the Lilac Time-esque fey-pop jaunt of Too Clever By Half to the shimmering sixties vibes of Slip The Rope. It is a vast departure from his earlier, darker band days but to many people, myself included, it was destined for more spins around the house than the more challenging Bauhaus back catalogue. And for those who  found this an unexpected departure at the time, hindsight now tells us that a reunion with Daniel Ash in the form of Love and Rockets and all the glitz and glamour, punch and panache which that entailed was just around the corner.

Origins –  Function Space (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a2177732769_16There is a point where the past meets the future, an ever moving location on that cyclical musical loop that sees past glories become future potential, where the sounds of the past are recycled into new and exciting sounds for the future, that point where familiarity meets freshness. It is here that you find Function Space. This latest album is a set of slick art-pop songs and for every hint of Talking Heads outsiderness or post-punk reference there are a dozen more contemporary influences, such as War on Drugs or Foster The People.

Songs such as Reason are wonderful drive-time reveries, energetic and accessible, dreamlike and transient, which acts as a good touchstone from what Emilio Couchee has cooked up here and the album flows past ricocheting off the heartland and the heavens with equal joy. That Sound is a radio hit in the making but standing just far enough from the tried and tested, the predictable pop of the current clime as to hold a mirror up to that genres failings. Falling is 80’s pop for a new generation, taking all the infectiousness and groove of that era but somehow making it smarter, shrewder and cleaner limbed.

Pop music seems to have painted itself into a corner of late and now it sits caught in a trap of its own making. Thankfully albums like this show that there is another way, one that ticks all the boxes but which manages to break moulds too. A retro-futuristic classic in the making.

The Gift  –  Leon Daye (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

e5f6f40e8d34f0b7a95915221812d8d5b66a2b28.jpegMusic has a bit of a problem these days. We seem to have convinced a generation of middle-class, gap year kids that being a singer-songwriter is some sort of rite of passage that they are not just entitled to explore, but which is almost expected of them. Like getting a tattoo, having your own you tube channel or growing an ironic beard…delete as applicable. It means that you can’t even nip to the shops for a packet of Custard Creams without tripping over some pasty teen in a wide brimmed hat and distressed jeans murdering a Bon Ivor song. Thankfully amongst this morass of musical mediocrity there are still a few wonderful islands to seek refuge on. One of those refuges is Leon Daye shaped.

All of my live encounters with Leon have been in his guise of solo acoustic guy, a format which more than proved how great a song-writer he is, but as is often the case, whilst watching him play I always found my own brain putting the rest of the instruments around his songs. Again, a testament to his writing that his clean-limbed and simple format was astute enough to suggest what the whole band might sound like. Thankfully when he commits his songs to prosperity he does so with that fuller sound.

The title track is the perfect example of what happens when he does allow himself such luxuries and with Aron Attwood’s multi-instrumental aid the most obvious talking point of the album sounds like a half-forgotten Nick Lowe classic, and that is pretty good place to start. Centurion Town also jumps out personally, not just because of its joyousness and jaunt but because it reminds me of some fascinating pre-gig discussions with him about his home town.

Opening salvo, Darkside, is a rich slice of pop-rock, a blend of street smart philosophy, clever dynamic interludes and punchy choruses and Diamonds and Dreams is the perfect way to put this short put exquisitely crafted album to bed, a song that steps from intricate folk textures to cinematic world-pop crescendo’s as it guides us to its conclusion. 

Leon Daye is a safe pair of hands and he seems to have found the perfect producer/wingman/sonic enabler in Aron Attwood. Good songs don’t need too much dressing up before going out to face the world but with there right balance of imagination and more importantly restraint, they can easily become great songs. The Gift is an album of great songs, its sometimes as simple as that.

Better Than You –  MusicBySire (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

attachment_180828110540MusicBySire understands the power of music. Last time we caught up with him he was raising awareness for the oppression of modern slavery with Black, here he has a more universal message. Better That You is an anthem of faith and of walking your own path, of holding on to your beliefs and ignoring those who would seek to distract you from that journey. Faith is obviously a very personal thing, but what I love about Better That You is that it is a celebration of the mysteries of the world but it never preaches, never tries to tell anyone else what to think or believe. Instead this is a pure outburst of love, a celebration of life as seen by one person, how can you not embrace the joy of such an act.

And even if the message isn’t for you, the music certainly will be. How can you not like it… African sunshine pop blended with reggae vibes, sweet and clean limbed grooves, infectious danceability and before you know it you hips are moving, the feet are shuffling, the hands are in the air and you are singing along. That is the power of music…maybe that is the power of faith too, either way it takes a tough skin or a closed ear to not be musically buoyed up by this song.

Okay, lets make sure that we have everything. Reggae grooves…check. Addictive pop melodies…check. Meaningful yet infectious lyrics…check. Joyous vibes, celebratory attitudes, singalong pop contagion….check, check, check! It even throws in a few modern studio vocal glitches and astute sonic production tricks. In fact it is hard to think of anything that this song has missed. A job well and truly done.

Scene and Heard – CCCLXXXII :  School Days – Written By Me (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

200x200-000000-80-0-0Some music is bombastic and out going, full of vim and vigour, getting the message across by being up close and personal. And that’s fine, it gets the job done, after a fashion, but the cliched adage of less is more is still being repeated for a very good reason. Cliches are cliches because they are true and Written By Me is an artist who proves that you can sometimes do a lot more, make a lot more of an impact, by carefully cutting your sonic cloth. And that is what is so great about School Days, the fact that it builds its gentle musical platforms and sonic peaks not by powering through or laying the music on thick and fast, but by choosing just the right few notes, the right pauses and more importantly, the right spaces, to make the most impact.

It’s a song which is created just as much by the breath between the lyrics, the silence between notes, by single plaintive piano notes, by the atmosphere and anticipation created by music fading into nothingness, of restraint and understatement as by what is actually being played. It is a pop ballad more than anything but one that breaks through generic boundaries on all sides to wander and revel in the sounds of other musical styles.

On the one hand it is an unobtrusive song, one which can sit in the background late at night or maybe just as a mood enhancer but once you begin to immerse yourself into just how wonderfully emotive and heartfelt it is you will realise that you have uncovered a real gem. It may not sparkle as brightly and obviously as some you may have seen but you will find yourself gazing into the myriad of subtle, shifting colours at its heart for years to come.

Sweetest Surrender –  Amy Loftus (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

683b6331-e8c3-4453-919c-d76d5b627432Within the first two tracks of this, her 7th album, Amy Loftus signposts the fact that whilst pop music might lie at the core of Sweetest Surrender, there is still much to explore within that broad generic label. Whilst the opening salvo and titular single kicks things off in sassy pop style, a heartfelt love letter to her husband, a thread that runs through the album, Me and You, musically at least, offers up a more sultry pop vision. And it is between these two extremes, the obvious dance floor groover and the less obvious and more intimate indie-dance anthem that the album finds its personality.

There is room for strutting rock drives in the form of Only Human, feel good boogies such as We Have It All and country-pop on the album’s swan song On The Inside. For my money though she is at her best when blending those accessible pop passions with some more mercurial moods. Higher Ground is a gorgeously drifting, sonic lucid dream that matches space and atmosphere into the perfect cinematic soundscape and I Do is a minimalist ballad that has late night radio and chart success written all over it. Story of My Life is a fantastic piece of brooding beauty, its as simple as that.

Pop music doesn’t have to be obvious and pandering, Sweetest Surrender proves just that. It shows that even the most commercially accessible songs can still be built with real integrity, real passion rather than the usual production line, pop by numbers. It also shows that beyond the clean lines and infectious grooves, there is room for enticing and graceful songs, timeless and genre-less pieces that exist only because they had to be written not to serve some higher purpose cash till ring.

Amy Loftus is a triumph. One day all pop music will be made this way.  

Scene and Heard – CCCLXXIX :  I Am Bold – Janeliasoul  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

14124478_1333246146703373_7280665907639755590_oThere is a point where Afrobeat meets western soul, where the emotive beats of that continent connect with commercial, occidental melodies, it is here that some of the most infectious and near perfect pop is created. I Am Bold is a perfect example of that concept blending as it does jazz motifs and soulful grooves through those already addictive sounds.

You might be able to take the girl out of Nigeria, she is now based in Balitmore leading her band of the same name, but you certainly can’t take Nigeria out of the girl and its music seems to ooze naturally in joyful celebration from her. As well as being a great pop song, it is a powerful mantra too, a reminder of our individual power and strength, that we should all chase our dreams whatever form they take and whereever that might take us.

Making music is more than enough for most people, making great, life-affirming pop music takes a whole, more refined set of skills, skills which Janeliasoul has more than her fair share of.

Lights On Moscow release debut single Lord Let Me Know

mail-1Lights on Moscow is a collaboration between Justin Lockey (Editors/ Minor Victories/ Mastersystem) and Hazel Wilde (Lanterns On The Lake)

The pair were living near one another in Newcastle when the songs took shape. However, the creative journey they shared began years before, where the duo originally performed the songs during a trip to New York. In the intermittent years, neither were in the right head space to release the music. Only now, years later do they feel comfortable sharing their music with the world.

“It’s strange how the timing of something can make a difference. We always knew it was something we’d come back to. And now we have” says Wilde of the project. The idea of ‘waiting’ is certainly at odds with an industry obsessed with speed and the present – but the single highlights a timelessness in-keeping with the ethos of the project.

Continue reading “Lights On Moscow release debut single Lord Let Me Know”

Everyday Life, Everyday People – Slightly Stoopid  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

jW2Zwk8K_400x400I have to admit that as a new name to hit the review pile I was more than pleasantly surprised at Slightly Stoopid’s latest, and ninth, album. Always one to judge books by covers (hey, we all do it) and on this occasion the music by the band name, I was relived when what emanated from the speakers was not actually some frat boy, pop punk as the name had suggested to me but in fact a really cool West Coast fusion band.

Even fusion is a loaded term but here it comes in the form of a cool blend of roots-rock, reggae, pop and blues, in the past have even explored more extremes genres such as punk and metal. Here though the focus is very much on island life, ska, reggae and calypso sounds form the core but there is plenty of room to follow those musical threads to their logical extensions and incorporate hip-hop, soul-pop, folk and roots rock and roll and much more besides. So how does a band fit all of those, often mutually exclusive styles together? Well, normally a band doesn’t, at least not well, but Slightly Stoopid, despite their name, are actually extremely clever, more than that they are deft arrangers, superb players and are brilliantly imaginative conceptually.

You can tell a lot about a band by the company they keep and the fact that Ali Campbell turns up for a ska-pop groover, Yellowman brings the old school reggae and dub legend Don Carlos fronts two slick and sultry dance floor anthems, says all you need to know here.

Nine albums in and it’s my first encounter with the band. My bad, as the youth of today say but at least people know what to get me for the next eight birthdays!

Shine  –  Odella ft. Ivory Lee (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

licfminpdchkieffDifferent music serves different purposes. Rock music is bold, brassy and in your face, R&B is smooth and sultry and pop music is at its best when it is being infectious and full of energy. I know this, you know this and Odella know this better than anyone as their latest release, Shine, positively snaps, crackles and… well, does what it says on the generic label. Pops!

Shine is an infectious song, a song built with vim and vigour, alluring enough to seduce you on to the dance floor and addictive enough that you won’t want to leave it. Bass lines pulse, confident piano riffs provide the structure and the vocals land with such a familiar and cool quality that you will be singing along in no time. We hear a lot about dance floor anthems these days, it has become a bit of a cliche for sure but this genuinely is one. Simple enough for the listener to be able to immediately become part of the song and cool and clever enough that, although it sits on a well travelled generic road, rarely will you hear dance-pop done this slickly and this succinctly.

Scene and Heard – CCCLXXIII:  Juliet – Adabu Steven (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

37242027_275946399881463_8490974250532864_nIt is strange how much store people put in language, in the lyrics of a song, they forget that the musical element that lie below the narrative, the rhythmic qualities, its melody, beat, its very personality, are all just as communicative as the mere words. Juliet proves this brilliantly. Even though most of the song is sung in, presumably, the language of Steven’s Congolese birth place it doesn’t really matter as the sheer joy of the song just oozes naturally from it.

Juliet is a brilliant cross cultural blend, wonderful evocative African rhythms meets western pop, lush vocal harmonies adding wonderful texture and depth to this infectious creation and the result is a song that should be the easiest commercial sell in today’s music business but one that doesn’t just conform to the norms of the industry. The world is a big and exciting place, it is a beguiling and multi-facetted adventure and the best things happen when those various cultures, experiences, styles and sounds come together. Adabu Steven understands this concept perfectly.

Tropika – Von Rushton (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

TropikaAs the opening salvo Party Over Here goes about its business it is easy to get the feeling that you have heard all of this before but then Take Me Now comes along. By then you will have tuned your ear to the finer points of the album, to what’s going on under the surface and you realise that there is something slightly odd and off kilter about the programmed beats behind the vocal. The next thing you know strange and exotic middle eastern riffs are running around, exchanging their sonic moves with rock guitars and now your original appraisal of being firmly in familiar musical territory has to be quickly put to bed. At that point its best to start the album from the beginning again and listen with fresh ears and an open mind.

Tropika may, on the surface at least, be just another collection of euphoric dance floor groovers, and indeed it is but unlike its contemporaries, Von Rushton has a way of weaving unusual musical threads through the usual clubland templates. And if tracks like Take You Down play to expectations, and there’s nothing wrong with that, the album as a whole pursues any number of different directions from its vibrant dance-pop core.

Be My Escape plays with chilled modern R&B, a wonderful mix of electro-reggae grooves, ambient dance melodies and confident beats and I Might Hit the Club takes the modern obsession with skittering trap percussion and rap deliveries but shrouds them in a brooding and emotive finish. Taking something that is often a fairly unoriginal genre and building it into something totally fresh and exciting.

There is even room for soulful dream pop with I Wanna Know Your Name, a brilliant revival of the golden age of soul made over for the modern and more discerning club goer and Firefly is a hushed and harmonious slice of ambient pop.

For an album I went into thinking, “here we go again” Tropika not only covers a lot of ground but does a lot of sonic landscaping along the way. This is not just someone visiting various genres, this is the sound of someone updating them for a whole new audience. The familiarity lies in the raw materials not the finished design in the same way that when you study the sleek lines and beautiful demeanour of an iconic building you don’t look at the individual bricks but marvel at what they have been shaped into. Tropika might be formed of the same building blocks as its rivals, however, where for those competitors it might result in perfectly functional music, practical sounds that gets the job done, Tropika is nothing less than awe-inspiring sonic architecture writ large.

Future Generations release Suddenly ahead of new album

mailNYC’s Future Generations have shared a new single “Suddenly.” The track is off their upcoming new album  Landscape (Frenchkiss Records) set to be released on September 14. Of the single they note, “Sometimes things just happen the way they are supposed to and they happen all at once, but it takes a bit of patience leading up to it. Suddenly encompasses that message both in its lyrics and in the way it came about. After a bit of a writing slump, we wrote and recorded it in one day and didn’t touch it again until we mixed it with the rest of the album.”

https://open.spotify.com/album/2c6uJwUtzIxeJO1CAsoxQu

Produced by Justin Gerrish (Vampire Weekend, Hamilton Leithauser), Landscape is the first release from the band to feature their full lineup of Eddie Gore (vocals) Mike Sansevere(synthesizer, guitar, percussion), Eric Grossman (guitar), Devon Sheridan (bass), and Dylan Wells (percussion). Of the album’s title, Gore notes it “came from ending the first significant relationship of my life. And with the band’s move to Brooklyn, we were all put into this world we’d never experienced—living on our own and navigating the landscape of being in New York City.”

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Hey Maria –  Gypsyfingers (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

38806597_1818155028267659_8743591230312546304_nMaybe language gets in the way, maybe the process of sharing experiences looses something when you start to define it, describe it, nail it down. So maybe meeting a random stranger, finding that you don’t speak each others language but then spending time together on a road trip is the perfect way to explore the world. It’s what Gypsyfinger’s Victoria Coghlan did and this song is a tribute to her new found friend and fellow explorer.

It is a folk song with a pop make over, it tips its hat to 70’s stalwarts and 90’s pop alternatives (Sixpence None the Richer spring to mind here) and the commercial end of the current wave of folkies who are finding new ways and new genres to fuse their music with. It’s a deft and delicate piece, one built of chiming and clean sonic lines and euphoric energy and as tributes to friends go, it is nothing short of perfect.

Introducing…ELYAZ

36587311_2071399079567893_5924860234681024512_oInspiration was to be found all around Mauro Elias Morone as a child, not least from his father,  Franco Morone, a renowned finger-style guitarist from whom he learned to take his first steps towards becoming a musician and performer in his own right. He then taught himself to play piano and to sing as well but it was whilst working as a DJ that he really began to explore the idea of creating his own music and express himself though such a form.

He has since furthered his quest to explore all aspects of music and production by studying sound engineering at The Italian National Academy of Cinema in Bologna and is a graduate of International Professional Certificate Program in Film and Television at UCLA.

His first music and remixes were released in 2016 via Dance Floor Corporation but he quickly made the decision that he should trust his own instincts and release his music independently to allow complete artistic freedom and creative control of his work. Later that same year Whispers was ranked in the top ten tracks of Spinnin’ Records Talent Pool annual selection and this year has seen the release of new music in the form of Break The Distance, a song that “proves that dance music doesn’t have to be simple, that it can be elegant, musically eloquent rather than merely pumping and functional.”

It is the first video in which ELYAZ features visually as a singer and musician and despite having taught himself many skills and learned to play a number of instruments since heading off down this musical career path, his real goal is to work as a DJ/Producer, to explore music from a technological and digital approach as well as a more traditional one.

ELYAZ is a man of the modern age. Someone who has studied music, plays instrument and sings, but also someone who understands that the world is a changing place, that digital forms are just as valid as analogue and acoustic ones, that there are no boundaries anymore when it comes to genres and musical forms. It is this range of skills and this breadth of imagination which means that rather than follow others into this bright new future, he is actually one of those leading the way.

Scene and Heard – CCCLXXI: Feels So Divine  –  Inanna  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

51T0kdA5rJL._SY450_Feels So Divine is a very interesting concept, part infectious dance music, part devotional, the result being a track which is both euphoric and graceful, which is spiritual and yet full of energy. Lyrically it is a celebration of life, inspired by a spontaneous healing experience on the part of the author and combines the sound of primal chanting with contemporary dance music and it is around these juxtapositions that the charm of the song is built. It is the sound of worlds colliding, but doing so very gently, it is the modern entwined with the ancient, the sound of the natural world dancing to the tune of the technological one… or perhaps vice versa.

Dance music is often an empty place, with vacuous and empty words being forced together with the latest musical dance floor fads or clubland fashions, but Feels So Divine is a song which soars above such trivialities. It still plays with the joyous abandon of the pop and dance world but whilst it does so it leans on a deep experience and uses that to create something that is celebratory and emotive. It also has that uncanny knack of being able to take something highly personal and render it into a wonderfully relatable message.

Pop fans will love its lightness and accessibility, clubbers with dig the groove and those looking for something with a deeper message will revel in the place that the song comes from. When looking for something musically deep and meaningful you don’t often look to the dance and pop set for answers but Inanna is happy to prove that wrong, to over turn cliches and to show that wisdom can be found in the most unlikely places. 

Scene and Heard – CCCLXX: I Want You Back  – Sophia Evangelina (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Front_FinalSomeone wise once said that if you can strip a song down to just an acoustic guitar and it still makes an impact then it is a good song. That’s the acid test really, that underneath all the studio trappings and sonic embellishments, is the structure of a song sound enough to survive such a make-under. We all know that I Want You Back, the iconic Jackson 5 number, is a good tune but Sophia Evangelina shows that even as a funky acoustic busk it sounds as sharp and sassy as ever.

The first thing that strikes you is the seeming disparity between the impressiveness of her vocal and her young age, she sings with a power and a confidence of someone much older and the clean-limbed nature of the song means that it frames this vocal talent rather than competes with it. And with only an acoustic guitar, courtesy of Val Gaina, to accompany her, the result is a wonderfully fresh re-working of a song which already comes with large amounts of fun and infectiousness.

The video is largely filmed in the sun and surf of Venice Beach, a place with the right mix of colourful characters, creativity and coolness to make the perfect backdrop and the result is a visual display that feels as much like a holiday video diary as it does a music promotion, a natural collection of memories rather than a storyboarded and invented piece of work.

This single is the perfect calling card for her soon to be released album of covers, Butterfly, which in turn will surely raise more than a few eyebrows at the levels of accomplishment attained at such a young age. And whilst an album of covers is a perfectly sensible way to kick-start a pop career, I for one cannot wait to hear where her music goes once she is peddling her own creations. Exciting times indeed.

Initiation –  Nowicki (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

268x0wNowicki makes pop music but the raw ingredients to produce these songs seems to be drawn from everything but pop music. In a way it reminds me of what we have lost from the genre. Today the term implies slick, dance routine accompanied, chart bound, disposable, identikit songs which confirm to very tight rules and regulations but it wasn’t always so and Nowicki remind me of those earlier times when things were less homogenised, more exploratory, more experimental. It also differs from the accepted pop norm in that it threads lots of lyrical humour and wry narratives through the songs, something at odds with the modern po faced idea of what pop should be about.

And if opening salvo All About You starts us off in fairly familiar pop-rock territory, we are soon well off of the beaten musical track and following a sonic road less travelled. Make This Feeling Stay is a sassy latin infused swagger, Dark Blue is a chamber-pop serenade that tips its hat, probably a natty Fedora in this case, to the golden age of the crooner and the wonderfully named Biggleson’s Emporium is a song that the likes of Randy Newman would have been happy to have on his musical back catalogue.

And it is this last reference which is perhaps the most applicable, for the real charm of the album lies in the mordant style that Nowicki adopts, a sharp, playful and sometimes wonderfully biting lyrical way with the pen. This more than anything that sets the record (yes, I still call them records, get over it) apart from the pack. The modern pop picker seems to have been happy to trade in musical elegance and lyrical eloquence for a vacuous and repetitive beat…what I am given to understand is called a “banger” in modern parlance. Well, give me a song  with a deft and deliciously crafted tune and some intriguing and satirical lyrical content any day of the week. Or, in the case of Initiation, give me nine of them.

Scene and Heard – CCCLXVIII: Beautiful Life  –  Shan Fernando (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

hqdefaultWe need more people like Shan Fernando in the world. It is very easy to use art, especially music, to rally against injustice, point out the problems around us and explore darker aspects of the world. And that is worthy and important work but sometimes it is healthy to just celebrate all the beauty and joy of life itself. Yes, the world is sometimes a troubled place, but it is also a wonderful place and Beautiful Life is all about reminding us of this.

It is, generically speaking, quite a timeless piece of music, timeless in that it doesn’t really fit with any of the modern fads or fashions but neither is it a call back to past styles. Instead it seems to be comfortable following its own direction, being both accessible and familiar but also original and fresh. Simple pop melodies and a wonderfully hooky piano riff provide the platform for Fernando’s clear and concise vocal and the result is a light and breezy song which sits somewhere between a pop ballad and a piece of musical theatre.

On the one hand it is an unobtrusive song, one which can sit in the background late at night or maybe just as a mood enhancer but once you begin to immerse yourself into just how wonderfully emotive and heartfelt it is you will realise that you have uncovered a real gem. It may not sparkle as brightly and obviously as some you may have seen but you will find yourself gazing into the myriad of subtle, shifting colours at its heart for years to come.

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