Category Archives: Music

Emzae : Waste Our Time, single released February 2020

The striking Love Hearts sweets artwork heralds a new single from Derby-based musician/performer/producer Emzae, a follow up to the contrasting ‘As This Day Fades To Another’ and ‘Another Lesson Learnt’ from last year.

Like all of her recorded work this new track is immaculately constructed, with the combination of lyric and music beguiling and inviting the listener in. Reflecting the sentiment of the title, Emzae’s vocal kicks in at the one second mark and then it is all action for the brief duration of the track as it packs in verses, spoken word, bridges and a double chorus ‘….if we get into it you have to be sure, don’t wanna be restless no more….’ and of course ‘…we don’t wanna waste our time…’.

The phrases roll over each other as the voices take on different characteristics; the brilliance of this song is that all of this meshes together so effectively, expressing the fun and urgency of a possible relationship.

This lyrical dance takes place over some sharp and sparse electronic beats, percussion interruptions and possibly an acoustic piano in there too, all adding up to a sparkling two minutes.

https://emzaemusic.com/about
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/09/01/emzae-as-this-day-fades-to-another-single-released-august-2019/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/03/07/emzae-another-lesson-learnt-single-released-22-march-2019/

JEDRIK : EP 1, released January 2020

A new solo EP from JEDRIK, the singer from Cambridge pioneering dreampop trio Carolyns Fingers, who appeared on the scene in 2017 with some choice live shows and single releases. These four exquisitely crafted tracks blend electronic sounds and voice creating something very special…

1. Unfettered. Sung random-ish phrases roll over each other as a classically influenced chord sequence and bass move sedately on. It is an outpouring of emotion and love; uplifting, celebratory and fun ‘.…so happy I feel I don’t weigh anything at all….’ and winningly ‘… I’m a pair of trousers shy from true paradise….’

2. More Drreamscape. The bass keys and pure vocal start this off as a contemporary pop song but the foreboding atmosphere builds with insistent guitar notes and percussion until the track changes direction and becomes more of the dream of the title. Conjuring that half-awake drifting in and out of consciousness feeling other treated voices intrude, but the chorus dominates towards the end before a sinister coda unsettles the listener…

3. Seamsplitter. Structurally ambitious and ambiguous, this one is built around a descending guitar riff and features an addictive mix of claustrophobic beats and lyrical fragments. The turmoil of the music echoes the aspirations and feelings that don’t go as planned  ‘….you say you’ll make me whole….’

4. Special.  My favourite on the EP, a lo-fi gem of gentle percussion, low register guitar and a sultry, slinking melody beautifully sung. The chorus hooks will stay in your head ‘….what can I do to be someone you always find special…’

https://www.facebook.com/JEDRIKMUSIC/

 

 

 

The Just Joans : The Private Memoirs and Confessions of the Just Joans, LP released January 2020

A welcome and wistful mix of melancholy and fun on the new album from Glasgow indie song-crafters The Just Joans, maintaining the high standard since their formation in 2005. Before you even listen to the songs the titles tell a story…

1. Hey Ho, Let’s Not Go
A burst of brass is used to counteract the ennui as we become more reluctant to make the effort to have a night out when ‘…I’d rather get a takeaway…I’d rather get an early night….’. There is still a regret in the playout, ‘…when we were young we took the bus to town…’

2. Who Does Susan Think She Is? This one rolls along nicely and as in many of the tracks it is a wistful tale of life moving on and the inevitable leavings behind. Great piano solo!

3. Wee Guys (Bobby’s Got A Punctured Lung) A pre-released single; an instrumentally upbeat and succinct commentary on some of the probable mundane reasons for knife crime.

4. Dear Diary, I Died Again Today Katie Pope delivers a touching vocal performance, backed by a string quartet and featuring the memorable couplet ‘…a comment so inept, Frank Spencer would have wept…’

5. My Undying Love For You Is Beginning To Die Definitely one of many highlight of the album, lo-fi synth and percussion for David Pope’s sad reminiscence ‘….once upon a time long gone you held me in your thrall…but now I find I’m less inclined to bother much at all….’. It sort of resolves with the twist of ‘…perhaps that’s why you left two years ago with your new beau…’

6. When Nietzsche Calls A sombre mood pervades this one, but the affecting vocal and distant strings still wins you over.

7. The Older I Get, The More I Don’t Know Opening with ‘…the past has passed me…..the future’s ghastly….’ the song sounds more optimistic than it should be as the driving rhythm section pushes it along.

8. The One I Loathe The Least Lyrically, musically and in the vocal performances this is another big highlight. All together now! ‘….when everyone’s subhuman scum…it’s hard to find some peace…thank heavens I found you…the one I loathe the least…’

9. Another Doomed Relationship
Sounding like an early poppy Depeche Mode single the synths are back for this mini-masterpiece, the narrator knowing that even as ‘…we dream of true love…but the outcome’s the same…..’ that still ‘…. we cling on by our fingertips…’ and ultimately ‘…it’s the hope that kills you…’

10. Holiday Acknowledging the musical influence of Blur in the lyric for this song, this one really hits the sad reality ‘…two weeks in the sun but then you come back and it’s all the same…and you’ve got twelve months to count down again…’

11. People I Once Knew
The strange compulsion to retread the past that started with website ‘FriendsReunited’ set to a sinister clock ticking beat ‘….I’m quite content with my life and how it went…so, why do they call to me? that strange menagerie…’

12. Like Yesterday Again A dark coda to the album; lyrically sparse with lush but lo-fi orchestration ‘…in this room there’s no view…all there is are memories of you…’. A thoughtful ending to a brilliant album.

https://www.thejustjoans.co.uk/
http://www.fikarecordings.com
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2016/01/25/just-lovely-split-ep-released-january-2016/

Smoke Fairies, Norwich Arts Centre, 3 February 2020

The city of Norwich is full of historic churches; this church of St Swithin was converted into an Arts Centre in 1980 and won the NME award for best small venue in Britain in 2014. It was the perfect venue for the gothic-folk of Smoke Fairies.

Accompanied by a drummer (and later to join the headliners on bass), John J Presley lets his guitar, bottleneck and deep-toned voice bring the audience into his world. With an echoing guitar sound straining and distorting, his songs use dark riffs on the lower strings on ‘Dance with Me’ and delve into murky blues for ‘On a Sunday’. ‘Left’ was a faster pop-like stomp and I found that the final song ‘Riders’ was a concise movie soundtrack lingering powerfully into the memory.

Smoke Fairies have a very new album out evocatively titled ‘Darkness Brings The Wonders Home’ and that formed the core of their set tonight, brought to life by the atmospheric guitar playing and magical dual voices of Jessica and Katherine. Opener ‘Super Tremolo’ has a tense, urgent structure and immediately all the elements are in place, a firm foundation from bass and drums as the guitars intertwine lines that fade in and out and the double line of vocals power through but float above the song.

Like a dark medieval folk song ‘Out Of The Woods’ is a definite highlight, the melody sounds like it is coming at you through the silvery trees and the harmonies in the chorus are otherworldly and sublime. Older songs such as ‘Summer Fades’ and ‘After The Rain’ from their first LP show how the band has developed to embrace different styles. ‘Left To Roll’ was the slow-burning emotional centrepiece of the show and the paranoid dream of ‘Elevator’ is built round a fuzzy, sinister chord sequence.
The encore featured the dense, complex ‘Feel It Coming Near’ and finally another new highlight, the rocking ‘Chocolate Rabbit’ (‘….you’re hollow inside, you leave me unsatisfied…’)

This is one of my favourite venues and Smoke Fairies are a band who can effortlessly weave their music into the fabric of this ancient building, as their majestic harmonies float up into the vaulted roof…

https://www.musicglue.com/smokefairies/
https://www.facebook.com/John-J-Presley-180387252007865/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/08/10/smoke-fairies-out-of-the-woods-single-released-august-2019/


Captain Handsome : I Am Not An Animal, EP released January 2020

The new EP from Fightmilk singer/guitarist/composer Lily Rae performing as Captain Handsome arrives and according to Bandcamp is tagged as ‘pop, bedroom pop, country gloom pop, indie, lo-fi, pop revenge, country, sad pop’. All of this and more, it is a sublime and potent mix….

1. I Wish I Had a Dog. Detailed review of this first single at https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/11/20/captain-handsome-i-wish-i-had-a-dog-single-released-november-2019/

2. Annalise. For this excellent track the narrator and the Annalise of the title seem to blend and separate in a tale of infidelity and disappointment, a sort of murder-ballad atmosphere with no specific crime. The sentiments are ambiguous ‘…..I carve his name into the trees….he gives me something to believe…..I paint his name his name across the walls he’ll be the ruin of us all….’
The melancholy chords resolve into something more positive for the chorus as the tragi-country rock pushes on, while underneath some mournful strings stalk the lyric. A violin solo finally emerges near the end as the song finishes with ‘…Annalise had a secret…’ and we are none the wiser?

3. Dolly Parton.
A slower, introspective track as cymbals roll in and out and the sparse electric guitar is a platform for Lily’s raw and emotional vocal. It is all a bit sad, but there is still a glimmer of optimism in the haunting chorus ‘…there’s no point in being broken hearted…just pretend that you’re Dolly Parton….’

4. Halloween.
The second preview single may initially recall the glorious Fightmilk song ‘Pity Party’ but the Halloween event described is a much darker affair for the narrator. There are many impressionistic phrases that help to evoke the mood ‘…..I felt my voice turn into vapour….everyone’s a diving board to nowhere….’ along with a shimmering but sinister violin build-up. The gentle guitar and poignant words make this a thoughtful and powerful song.

5. I Am Not An Animal.
Initially delicately accompanied by a lone guitar this bookend to the EP moves from heartfelt plea to bitterness, expressed in the lyrics and by the crescendos from the band (driven by some spirited drumming!).
With words and music contributing equally, many of the elements and themes from the collection are distilled into this one song, probably my favourite track of the five.

https://www.facebook.com/captainhandsomemusic/
https://captainhandsome.bandcamp.com/album/i-am-not-an-animal
http://recklessyes.com/

Eilis Frawley : Intellectual Men, single released January 2019

Based in Berlin, Eilis Frawley uses drums, percussion and electronics as soundboards for her spoken words.
Released in 2019, ‘Illusions’ delivers a humdrum diary of existence over a tense drum pattern, dramatically coloured by staccato bursts and an ominous keyboard sequence. The follow-up ‘Strangers’ features a more uncomfortable and spiky rhythm as a narrated relationship swiftly shifts into decline. The synthesiser figure is deceptively cheerful but the words are not very optimistic, ‘…we used to be members of the same team….our joyful past blurred by our current disconnect….will we last?…’

Current single ‘Intellectual Men’ opens with bass electronic tones and an excellent percussion and drum work-out, saving the words for the second half of the track. The musings of the lyric are subtle and caustic ‘…these intellectual clever engaged men want to endlessly probe my argument for weaknesses…..want to argue just for fun…’ and drives the point home.
As Eilis concisely sets out the words, the fiery drums cut inbetween, their dissonance and anger underlining the disconnected emotion.

These three tracks will form the core of an upcoming EP ‘Never Too Emotional’, to be released on the label Reckless Yes Records, fast becoming a haven for bold, fun, original and constantly challenging musicians.

https://www.eilisfrawleydrums.com/
http://recklessyes.com/

Short Cuts : Three albums from 2019 that deserve another listen….

The Paranoyds – Carnage Bargain, LP released September 2019

The long awaited new LP from Los Angeles four-piece The Paranoyds kicks off with the emergency siren guitar of single ‘Face First’; a dual chord relentless roaring beneath the careless yearning of the vocal. Straight into the super-deep bass of ‘Carnage Bargain’ – with the voice alternating each phrase with an instrumental line and big chorus it is a near-perfect pop song.
‘Girlfriend Degree’ builds on the riff from the Kinks’ All Day and All of the Night with an excellent empowered anthem. My current favourite track is the blast of ‘Egg Salad’; it could be a tuneful song by The Fall. High praise indeed.
After that incredible four track opening the longer ‘Bear’ wanders a bit but ‘Hungry Sam’ restores the tautness and edge, also raising the organ in the mix to great effect, especially in the playout. ‘Courtney’ is a change in direction, a surreal swirling carousel of psych-pop with harmony vocals.
‘Laundry ‘ lasts just over a minute with the literal B-52s ish chorus ‘…I’m doing laundry…’ , leading into the similar ‘Heather Doubtfire’, a strident and noisy many-sectioned opus, with extra energy drumming and a spooky keyboard/guitar outro.
Another favourite for me is finale track ‘Ratboy’, it has the frenzy and psychedelic atmosphere of the faster Doors songs but I could be being hypnotised by the prevalent keys, including an ominously building solo at the end…
The quartet describe their sound as a ‘…sonic balance of jubilant energy and foreboding undercurrents….’ which is a good way of reflecting in the music their explanation of the band name ‘….What isn’t there to be paranoyd about?….’.

https://theparanoyds.bandcamp.com

 

Jade Imagine – Basic Love, LP released August 2019

After a tantalising three preview singles Jade Imagine finally release their new album, featuring the thoughtful world-view from Melbourne based singer/songwriter Jade McInally.
Basic Love is a varied collection of styles and ideas brought to life by two guitarists, drums and bass with some synthesiser textures; all analogue instruments for a sensation of warmth and authenticity. This is very evident in opening standout track ‘Gonna Do Nothing’, a meditation on drifting and boredom in a personal and existential sense, always leading to the concluding resignation of the title phrase. The dreamy production casts a sheen over an insistent guitar groove with the bass and drums threatening to overtake all in the end.
The triumphant trio of singles follow; ‘The News’ is as good a summation of our current political and media turmoil that you could expect to hear, ‘Big Old House’ is a seemingly effortless piece of pop built around a simple and very effective drum pattern, and ‘Remote Control’ invites some 80s synth to the party. All good so far, those four would be a top quality EP but this is a proper album with much more to come.
‘I’ll Take You There’ is an expansive and evocative six minutes of atmosphere, with that simultaneous closeness and distance from the listener that The War On Drugs achieve on their best tracks.
‘The Weekend’ is a dark inverse-celebration of time away from work, weaved through with melancholy and realism. A plaintive guitar solo line duels with the vocal at the end. ‘Cut Me Off’ is also delving into dark feelings, with the band in a blurry Cure mode while I particularly like the barely-there guitar lines, bass pedals and sparse drum interjections underneath the soulful vocal in ‘Past Life’.
The final two songs have a mellow, late-night feel (including a saxaphone appearing from nowhere!) memorably concluding this many-layered and rewarding album.

https://www.jadeimagine.com/

Tacocat – This Mess Is a Place, LP released May 2019

Tacocat release their 4th album ‘This Mess Is A Place’, their first since 2016’s ‘Lost Time’. The LP opens with single ‘Hologram’, a winning and reassuring combination of outsider observations and spiky guitar slices, metronomic drumming and a killer chorus with the reminder ‘….how small are you?…’ when considering the bigger issues of relationships, space and time…
‘New World’ has a great bass driven riff as the drums let loose and a wryly optimistic lyric brings a smile ‘…new world, new shining planet, confetti raining from the sky….’. There is the surreal touch and sentiment of some of Talking Heads later songs to be found here.
‘Grains Of Salt’ was another taster single release for this collection, a funkier groove with a sparkling chorus delivered with style by vocalist Emily Nokes. The wall-of-sound verses of ‘The Joke Of Life’ smoothly drop into a sixties chart-pop chorus as you realise that lyrically there is so much to process and absorb on these superbly structured songs. ‘Little Friend’ jangles along sweetly until hijacked by a suprisingly heavy chorus and slightly sinister middle eight.
And there is much , much more; there are many choruses to be uplifted by and neat words to spot and ponder like ‘…. I saw you in a crystal ball and you were upside down….’. The band are on top form, brilliantly showcased by an energetic, sharp production quality and I can imagine many tracks such as the sparse economy of ‘The Problem’ being a blast of energy on stage.
The final track is the anthemic waltz of ‘Miles And Miles’, a haunting melody and hypnotic swirl of sound which brings this excellent collection to a distinctive end.

https://www.facebook.com/tacocatband