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 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.
Singer/songwriter Natasha Nicole from Wolverhampton UK has put everything into this debut single, creating five minutes of welcoming meditations.
Beginning with a folk-inspired waltzing acoustic guitar and an immediate, inviting lyric ‘….go home…kick back….cut yourself some slack….you don’t need to carry this load alone…’, Natasha’s pure voice sets the tone. Additional instruments join in and the vocal becomes more ethereal as the music evolves into more dream-pop territory. The listener is eventually immersed in the big, reassuring chorus, ‘…it will be alright in the end…’ which though sounding comforting still has a slight undercurrent of doubt.
The track flies by; at the end a brass solo adds to the polish on the sheen of the production and immediately you want to hear this gorgeous and timeless track again….
On this debut album from Canadian singer/songwriter Madisyn Whajne the first track ‘Summer Love ‘ is a supreme slice of dreampop with an edge, as a hypnotic drum pattern is a platform for a sublime voice and all over hypnotic effect.
Then ‘Killing Desire’ maintains the momentum as a seventies style glam rock piano figure drives a minimally chorded epic into pure pop heaven.
‘One Shot’ is in rockier territory, where the band battles with the vocal to great effect. Madisyn drives the vocal straight through the middle of the musical mayhem.
This opening triumphant triumvirate of tracks is followed by the duet ‘So In Love’, where Madisyn and James Grey deliver a neat ballad, before the chiming vocal glories of ‘Sweet Talk’ and the punchy pulses and descending scale of ‘Don’t Walk Away’. ‘When Morning Comes’ echoes the ambience of dreamy pop titans Alvvays and ‘Never Give In’ is reflective and relaxed.
The last two tracks showcase the contrasting sides of Madisyn Whajne; the up tempo airiness of ‘Fire’ and the looser, bleaker threads of the title track finale bring this superb collection to an end.
London four-piece Bleach Lab inhabit a world of beautiful dreampop where the instruments and voice meld together and seem to slow down the passing of time. From earlier this year, ‘Burnt Orange’ featured intricate guitar work, changes of pace and a killer chorus. ‘Sleep’ was even more laid back, had the inviting opening line ‘…it was late and my head hurt….’ and a tour de force lead vocal.
Now new single release ‘Never Be’ is a thoughtful meditation on break-up and the uncertainty of moving on. Like the hinterland between sleeping and becoming aware, the track unusually fades into being, establishing a leisurely pace and production lustre that sustains throughout.
Again, vocalist Jenna Kyle makes every word count as the guitar gently soars and bends notes, creating an impression of being becalmed on a lake as the current nearly stops. In the end it does, not quite resolved musically and emotionally – which is part of the magic of this track.
‘Carousel’ is a new release from Such Small Hands, the performing name of Brighton singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Melanie Howard. A blend of treated acoustic instruments, voice and electronics create a haunting, drifting sound.
‘Lonely Is The Rain’ is an evocative and sombre title for the opener – a measured and mellow five minute meditation, with an echoing guitar and keyboard counterpointing with Melanie’s ethereal voice. The electronic percussion picks up the pace near the end but the listener is overwhelmed by the delicate beauty of the track.
‘Do I Belong Here?’ is built around an acoustic guitar triplet figure and smoky layers of vocals weaving into a heady mix. ‘Drifter’ is a lo-fi delight then ‘Still Dreaming’ is probably my favourite on the LP. The introduction could be the theme to a cult sixties movie thriller then it transforms into a sensuous interweaving of vocals and descending chord progression. With spectral keyboard tones continually adding flavour, by the end it is epic and almost orchestral in its ambition.
The title track ‘Carousel’ is built around a repeating note and a louder electric ambience alternated with quieter thoughtful sections. The pensive and beautiful ‘Anhedonia’ closes the album (along with two bonus acoustic reworkings of older songs).
Reflecting the experience of ten years of writing and reshaping of the music, this excellent LP rewards in-depth listening and immersion in the tracks as they range from atmospheric vignettes to darker pieces that occupy the hinterland between nightmare and daydream.
There are hidden gems in the back catalogue of West Midlands based singer/songwriter and guitarist Graywave, the performing name of the multi-talented Jess Webberley.
On ‘Fluid’ from 2019 the poignant guitar and disconnected voice evolves into a huge doom-laden noisewall. The track then moves seamlessly and impressively back into almost a soothing instrumental and multivocals. ‘Afternoon Escapism’ is an evocative title for a languid guitar-line led pop musing. I also really like the dreamlike excursion of ‘Rain’, bringing to mind the best of Canadian indie outfit Alvvays.
Now new single ‘With Me’ takes the music in another direction, featuring a softer edged sound but with more dissonance, looseness of structure and otherworldliness in the music. The vocals have been absorbed into the textures of guitars and insistent drum pulse.
As the bassline descends gracefully and the guitar sparkles and fills the space above, the lyrical mantra ‘…always searching…always yearning…’ speaks of timelessness and longing.
Graywave describes the enigmatic cover artwork as ‘…depicts my bedroom with the addition of a portal leading elsewhere, tying in with the mood of the song….’.
This atmospheric track is released on June 18th, with more music to follow and hopefully some live shows with her band.
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…’