Pop music frequently gets a hard time, but often for a good reason. While it does big hooks and infectious melodies exceptionally well, what it often lacks is authenticity, the feeling of genuine emotion and meaning behind the song. That’s what makes this new break-up anthem from up and coming duo Ciircus Street so refreshing. ‘Broken’ has plenty of pop hallmarks in its harmonies and its slick and polished instrumentation, but it details coming to terms with breaking up, and how the right decision can still hurt as though it’s the wrong decision, in such a heartfelt and thought-provoking way. The raw and gritty inflection in the vocals injects such passion into the track, and its imperfections give it a sense of humanity and character that is so often missing in the genre. “Pop” needn’t be a dirty word if only we had more songs like this.
Following the success of his debut EP Cirrhi earlier this year, Lokki (aka Drew MacFarlane of Glass Animals) is back with a brand new track. Reminiscent in places of The Last Shadow Puppets, ‘High’ details the feeling of taking a step back from your life to take a look at the bigger picture. It carries the same lush vibe that made his EP so compelling, but what really sets this track apart is the stunning stop motion video. Made from thousands of photographs strung together (along with added illustrations, as if it wasn’t complicated enough to make already!) by animator Tayo Kopfer, it is a mightily impressive work in its own right and adds a deeper layer of charm to and already charming song.
I like fancy production and impressive musicianship as much as the next person, but they aren’t necessary to make a great song. One of the best measures of what makes a song great is whether it moves you, whether you can connect with it, and for that all you need is a message to share and to sing it out with all your heart. London based artist Keeva does just that with her debut EP. Carrying all the charm and soul of classic Motown, with all the excess stripped away to leave something more delicate and vulnerable, this wonderfully understated release is about as honest and authentic as they come. While most records are like oil paintings, building up layer by layer, this is more like a watercolour, needing only a tiny drop of colour to fill the blank space. From the sparse piano of ‘Pieces’, to the gentle fingerpicking of ‘How Do I Tell You’, the music provides the barest framework for Keeva’s soulful and sorrowful vocals. Her voice is one of the best you’ll hear in 2018, and it is given plenty of chance to shine. The EP carries a timeless feel, a break-up record for the ages, proving that sometimes less is more.
Fans of Isaac Gracie, Joni Mitchell and Amy Winehouse should check out Keeva’s debut EP Four Sad Songs and a Ballad
Though Bonfire Night is traditionally celebrated with fireworks, I spent mine with something just as exciting and vibrant, albeit even louder; the brilliant Caligula’s Horse on their first headline European tour. Though I was a bit late to the game regarding their latest record, 2017’s In Contact, it has quickly become one of my favourite releases of recent years and has been one of my main go-to albums. So naturally I wasn’t going to miss out on seeing them, along with a few of their friends from back home, for an all out Australian invasion on the penultimate stop of their tour. After all, if anyone knows how to have a good time it’s the Aussies. Continue reading
I can’t help but respect a band that can pack a lot of great ideas into just a few short minutes, and Brooklyn based duo Hanford Reach do just that on their delightfully dystopian new single. ‘Winston Smith’, named after the protagonist of the ever relevant 1984, is a curious little psychedelica cocktail. It has some great trippy guitar work and some simply fantastic percussion but also brings something else to the table, some hard to define aura. It starts with the kind of light and airy vibes you’d expect from a psychedelic song, but as it progresses the bleak lyrical content seems to sow seeds of darkness within the music itself. Even then, it seems too bright and vibrant a track to depict a world so sombre, but that’s how it fits so well with 1984. You’re shown this cheerful veneer but you can’t escape this primal feeling, this tingle across your skin, that there’s something lurking beneath it all.
God, they don’t make them like this anymore. That is, “they” being everyone other than London based quartet Cavey. An absolute masterclass in old-school soul and blues, ‘About To Start’ details the less glamorous side to life as a musician. At its climax the track shifts from a timeless blues solo, to an energising rush of brass, before bringing the whole thing down with softly spoken vocals and gentle jazzy piano. It’s like going from wowing the main stage to serenading some private VIP lounge in the span of a few seconds. This is the kind of song that just transports you somewhere else, mind, body and soul. Press play, close your eyes, and suddenly you can feel the warmth of some crowded jazz club, smell rising smoke from cigarettes and candlelight, and picture the band onstage putting on one hell of a show.
Matt Corby – Rainbow Valley
Soul | R&B
I love a video that tells a story, and in the case of ‘Quoting Sagan’ the visuals offer a glimpse into how the song itself came to life and into the people behind it. The band’s river cruising imbues a sense of wanderlust; but instead of a journey for the journey’s sake we get a slow and serene voyage through still waters and picturesque scenes, taking the time to bask in the surrounding beauty. The very act itself of cruising down the river, and the shots of the old-school keyboards with their walls of switches and dials, gives the feeling of being rooted in another time. It fits perfectly with the warm vintage glow of the song itself. Charming visuals aside, this heartwarming Americana track offers some sublime splashes of soul, a gorgeous rise and fall, and easily some of the best percussion I’ve heard all year. A real gem on all fronts, this Glaswegian outfit share such a feast for the senses with their latest single.
If you’re a fan of intricate musicianship and immaculate production then do I have a treat for you. Canadian prog metal outfit Fractal Cypher are truly firing on all cylinders with this dynamic new djent inspired track, perfect for fans of TesseracT and Periphery. ‘From The Above And To The Stars’ is taken from their upcoming EP Prelude To An Impending Outcome, out 8th November, which features four tracks that each explore a different facet of progressive metal. This taste of what’s to come boasts soaring melodic vocals, complex rhythms, snarling riffs and stunning futuristic visuals. Fractal Cypher have taken the most prominent sound of modern progressive metal and have condensed it down to capture exactly what the style excels best at in a single epic track. Just imagine three more songs with the same drive and purpose as they explore three vastly varying, but no less impressive, styles and you start to see what makes their new release so compelling.
A month ago I found myself meeting the artists behind some of my favourite music that I’ve written about over the past couple of years. When I was writing about their music it never really registered that my words might actually make a difference. Even when writing about music that you love and feel a deep connection to there’s still a real disconnect at work. So to have artists tell you in person how much your comments mean to them, and even quote them back to you word for word, was such a moving and gratifying encounter. It’s one of the many reasons that night was the highlight of my year. However, to then sink back into the daily grind, I found myself dwelling on the ordinary, everyday struggles. Continue reading