Another teaser for the September release of the fourth Public Service Broadcasting LP ‘Bright Magic’, this time featuring the simultaneously rich and icy vocals of Berlin-based performer and lyric co-writer Andreya Casablanca. She steers the song from a low-key start, bristling with musical tension before the band gradually add layers to the sound. Then the explosive guitar flourishes enrich the dense production of repeating bass notes and the full-on drum sound that we know and love. The chorus line ‘….I, in my blue heaven….’ takes on a haunting, disconnected feeling as it reappears through the track and Andreya’s vocal delivery is rewardingly unpredictable and intriguing.
This is a road movie of a song, carrying all before it as it travels to a resolution somewhere in the high ether. Growing in power with every listen, hopefully this will be part of the live set when the band tours later this year…
BansheeVa – Janus. The title character can be described as ‘….god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames, and endings…’. That just about sums up the mind-expanding pathways of this jumpy psychedelic instrumental extravaganza.
Death To Slow Music – Pressure. Two minutes of minimalist punk single line bass and guitar erupting into an explosive chorus.
People Look Like Dogs – Allan Thinks We Don’t Move. Probably the best combination of band and track name on the album for this untamed cacophony of guitars, drums and wild vocal.
Jaymotts – Love Paralysis. Retro jazz-funk, sounding enigmatically timeless.
Collars – Hey Lizzie, Lay It On Me full review here
Creepy Neighbour – The Optimist. Striking but slightly disturbing piano-led ballad featuring a strong vocal from Max Taylor along with lush string stylings.
Naomi Randall – Cabbage White. Lovely indie folk; evocative and effortless with the acoustic guitar adorned with other subtle instrumentation and echoing voices to frame Naomi’s sublime vocal.
Dom Howard – Cascade Mix. Like a coda to the previous track, a sparkling guitar chimes out a repeated riff over the lightest of jazzy backing before an introspective solo.
Lady Birdface – (I’m Gonna Give You) The Clap. DIY pop splendour from creative multi instrumentalist and songwriter Kate Shore, full of barbed edges and sparse couplets ‘…don’t you look too close or you’ll feel morose…’
Sunday Driver – Time Machine. Classy acoustic steampunk fusion and sinuous vocal whisks the listener into a cabaret club of the future.
Percy Black – Code Name Covid-19. If you need reminding about the subject, this is as pleasant way as it could be, super-smooth reggae with golden-voiced lead and backing vocals and laced with brass and sax; the messages are clear, ‘….give the scientists the wisdom to eliminate Covid-19….’
Tom Bainbridge – Nocturne. All-acoustic multi-layered piece, built around a gently swinging pendulum rhythm and a chorus of voices.
Keith Somerville – Red Angel. A loosely structured prog-psych song pulls the listener into a spiral of mellow musings, interrupted by a surprise electric solo.
Helefonix – Song Thrush Serenade. Pure atmosphere of delight here as sampled birdsong tonally competes with the semi-ambient electronics.
The Routine – Come Knocking At My Bedroom Door. Strong rock-pop anthem from Cambridge/London quartet with the upfront vocal and musical intricacies giving way to a huge chorus.
A new LP from Cambridge folk-psych collective Fuzzy Lights delivers on many levels. Opening track ‘Maidens Call’ threads a contemplative vocal over a loping bass line with violin interludes, but it is the second track ‘Songbird’ that opens the consciousness into a ten minute psychedelic workout, full of energy, colour and a voice that inhabits the darkness.
‘Graveyard Song’ strips the sound back into a sinister medieval acoustic ballad gradually building into a big instrumental coda. There is so much going on in this excellent album, like the languid interlude and speculative history of ‘Haraldskaer Woman’ contrasting with the sweeping folk-rock momentum of ‘Under The Waves’. ‘Sirens’ is possibly my favourite; with the descending chord sequence, timeless and mysterious vocal, dissonant chorus and enough noise to lose yourself in.
Ending with the ‘The Gathering Storm’, using all of its nearly seven minutes running time to build atmospheric musings over a persistent bass note this album pulls you in for an unchartered musical journey….
A new EP from Kezia Gill. a force to be reckoned with in UK country rock..
The Mess I Made. Bold, brilliant vocal from Kezia on this stately rocker framed by searing pedal steel from guest Sarah Jory. An epic track on every level.
All Of Me. Initially the calm after the fireworks of track 1, but soon expands into a glorious slow blues, again filled by the stormy voice and the barely contained restraint of the band.
Country Song. The narrative takes us on a journey ‘…straight into a country song…’. A knowing, fun take on lyrical genre themes, with an upbeat likeable optimism.
Live It Up. Mid-paced rocker with addictive chorus and a clear message ‘…don’t waste another second…live it up like we’ve only got tonight…’
Bad For Me. Probably my favourite on the collection; starting as a piano waltz it all gets a bit dark before the huge chorus delivers the emotional heft. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better a soaring guitar solo duels with Kezia’s rich vocals before the ending drifts away…
The Adventures Of A Travelling Mind. Recorded ‘as live’ this is a raw and dusty blues, the band keeping it tight and tense as the vocal steers the song through the reassuring chord structure, creating a big road movie soundscape…
A new single from singer/songwriter Jen Dixon, following on from the evocative ‘Which Way Is Down?’ from earlier this year. That was a wistful ballad; full of restrained intensity in the vocal, complemented by the haunting echoes of the production. The catchy chorus and spoken word break all added to the winning effect.
Now ‘Save Me’ further explores some darker thoughts and stretches more emotional heartstrings, along with showing her gift for composing a strong melody line and delivering it with conviction. As the chords descend the bleak picture is painted, ‘…standing on a knife edge….waiting to fall….’, but there are also threads of optimism in the repeated lines ‘….I want to know will you catch me if I fall…I want to know will you notice if I’ve gone…will you save me?….’. Jen’s recordings are self-produced; here the subtly crafted musical arrangement gently frames this fine song.
A new collaboration between Cambridge musician Gavin Chappell-Bates and electro dance music producer Charlie Howell, Star Pixel release their first single. The duo’s name may be an amalgam of macro and micro scales but this sound is unreservedly big, brash and full of the passion that Gavin Chappell-Bates always brings to his singing performances, no doubt influenced by his favourite band the Manic Street Preachers whose album has a cameo in the accompanying video.
Brilliantly edited by collaborator Karen Cann, the multiple visual images featured are rapid jump cuts of real life circles from the natural world, sound technology and art. It is as exhaustingly frenetic as the music and works like a hypnotic spell to complement and pull you into the track. As the unrelenting drive of the guitars duel with the giant electro beats, the lyrics culminate in an extensive list including ‘…. criminals, dreamers, lovers and leaders…peacemakers, instigators and the non-believers…step right up, step right in…’ who would all be welcome to join ‘The Circle’…
There will be many more 2021 releases from this highly creative duo, who classify their music as ‘Electro-GrungeStep’…
Flaming June releases a new single, ahead of an album called ‘Hope in a Jar’ due in the autumn of 2021. From her lockdown attic songwriter Louise Eatock has carefully crafted a follow-up to her 2018 release ‘The Women’s Battalion’, a timely reminder of the historic struggle to improve the inequalities of the voting system one hundred years ago. Musically it was restless and urgent, with the powerful rhythm guitar duelling with the incisive violin from collaborator Alex Herring. That intensity and music combination carries into this new song; a fast paced likeable folk soundtrack to a very dark tale.
Daniel Dawson was hanged in 1812 in Cambridge (in front of a crowd of 12,000 people as it was market day in the city!?) for poisoning race horses at Newmarket. Louise’s lyrics tell the courtroom story and see Daniel as the scapegoat for unseen powerful figures ‘…just swallow down that bitter pill…I’m just one cheat among many…a little minnow plucked from the shallows…’ and concludes that ‘….he’s a lesson that we can learn from…’, with an undertone of resignation.
Transferring a wider issue into an individual case ‘protest song’ to give extra impact and make an issue more relatable is a little used but very effective song writing tool – Bob Dylan has a few including ‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll’ and ‘Hurricane’ – now ‘The Ballad of Daniel Dawson’ joins the list and reminds us that many of these societal injustices and themes just keep repeating…
From the angst of the band name to the opening tension of the lyric,‘…tell me I been walking a thin line…and I’ll be towing it as soon as you say…’, R.J. Archer & The Painful Memories are back with a blistering burst of troubled blues rock. Last heard from on their self-titled EP from 2019 (reviewed below) featuring the edgy majesty of lead track ‘It’s Snowing In Hell’, this new release is a forerunner to their delayed debut long-player ‘Hot Mess’.
A punchy, up tempo cut from this Cambridge trio, ‘Who Am I Supposed To Love Now?’ is firmly rooted in the groove of the sort of cool and credible blues-infused record that would appear regularly and successfully in the pop charts of the late 1960s and 70s. It is a summary of lovelorn discontent set to sparse instrumentation, emotionally raw vocals and featuring twisty guitar links, a roving bassline and drums always on the verge of being fully unleashed. And, of course, all in less than three minutes…
A new single from Derby quartet The Bagatelles is a likeable slice of summery power pop, from the jumpy electric guitar line that is a welcome intervention throughout the song, to the wistful lyric evoking past times but always with a thoughtful optimism. This is set out in simple and affectionate terms in the middle eight, ‘….I want you and you want me with all the vulnerability….well take it slow though time goes fast…’. Musically the band deliver a crisp indie rock sound; full of light and shade and there is constantly something interesting to catch your attention.
I previously reviewed their 2019 single ‘Point Of View’ which was built around a simple echoing guitar figure and used the cosmic references to emphasise the emotion in the lyric, ‘…. you’re in my orbit girl and you’re voice I can’t help but listen…. I want to be your sun….I’ll be your galaxy…..’. It may have been heavily ironic or tinged with later regret but taken at face value it was straight to the heart, just like this new track.
The band are building up a catalogue of attractive songs and hopefully they will soon be able to cement their live reputation for immediacy and energy.
A track by track review of the debut LP from singer/songwriter Chloe Foy….
1.Where Shall We Begin. Setting the tone for the collection, an acoustic dreampop delight where the guitar shadows the vocal line. Gorgeous.
2.Deserve. A slow and longer meditation, peppered with restrained electric guitar, layers of vocal lines and gradual build up of atmosphere.
3.Work of Art. More tightly structured than some of the tracks, this compact pop song is driven by the insistent melody line; grounded by the bass, drums and empathetic guitar.
4.Evangeline. A definite favourite of mine, the musical triplets are joined by an endless selection of musical combinations as the stately melody serenely soars above with the sensual lyrics ‘…Evangeline…you are my queen I promise that I’ll keep you warm…’
5.Asylum. A prime example of the haunting-folk genre that Chloe inhabits, where the sonic textures of strings and harp complement the vocals perfectly, carefully arranged and produced by album collaborator Harry Fausing Smith.
6.Bones. Adrift on a becalmed sea, the rich vocal from Chloe is adorned by a dark and moody instrumental mix.
7.Shining Star. Uptempo, hypnotic and mysterious ‘…fears untold and false absolve be true to who you are…faster now, you’re dancing now…you’ll be my shining star…’
8.Left-Centred Weight. Previously released as a single this is a showcase for the smooth and mellow tones of Chloe’s voice as the languid strings emerge over the horizon and create a semi-orchestral extravaganza.
9.And It Goes. The longest track on the album, a free form late night jazzy-folk reverie with contrasting sections, unpredictable diversions and finally drifting off into the cosmos.
10.Square Face. Possibly saving the best till last, this is a timeless and traditional sounding folk melody over a reassuring background of strings and a waltzing piano. The unaccompanied vocal towards the end lingers long in the memory as an emotional representation of this superb album.