Tag Archives: pop

Fightmilk : Contender, LP released 14 May 2021

Frequently reviewed on this site, roisterous London powerpunks Fightmilk release their sparkling new album….

Lucky Coin : After a brief linking introduction this track means business, as the mix melds the band together into a sharp backing for a post break-up tale of uncertainty ‘….yes I’m building something new…..and I’m a lucky coin, I just flip myself back over…’

Hey Annabelle! : An underused name in pop songs, this was a pre-released single and another energetic burst of pop delight with an edge ‘….Annabelle if you see her, can you check if anybody is there….please don’t make it too obvious because I definitely don’t care…’

I’m Starting to Think You Don’t Ever Want To Go Into Space : full review here

The Absolute State Of Me : A lyric of self-doubt inhabits the 1970s sounding production of this gleaming pop gem, which could be my favourite track on the LP. Savour the middle eight ‘….you’d look just like your picture…I wouldn’t be so useless…’ and the lively instrumental playout.

Girls Don’t Want to Have Fun : This is the more pensive side of Fightmilk, with the addition of strings, keys and drum machine sounds to create a platform for some surreal imagery in Lily’s vocal ‘…..when we talk about dying it feels like a pipe dream….
I can be your guinea pig baby…. I can make you like me….’

Cool Cool Girl : Recalling the quartet’s early EPs this is a mighty powerpop explosion with a wittily acerbic lyric delivered with conviction, great answering vocal backing from the band and a killer chorus.

Banger : Drum driven spectacular, with full-on adventurous bass lines and molten guitar lines duelling with a big vocal, all adding up to the accurate description of the title.

If You Had a Sister… : full review here

You Are Not the Universe : Another character dissection, gradually building in lyrical complexity until the pay-off of ‘…the plays unread…the script is unrehearsed….but you’ve made your bed and you are not the universe…’

Maybe : With some instrumental link sections as brief respite this album does not lose forward momentum, even after the calmer acoustic introduction this track becomes another punchy anthem with a playful but lingering short phrase melody line that flawlessly hits the spot.

Overbite : This is a classy pre-released single, complete with animated video and distilling many of the elements of the band into the perfect blend. Over the dynamite bass line the lyric weaves a clever obsessional spell summed up in the chorus ‘….I think you’re cool….I like your overbite…’.

Long awaited and anticipated, Fightmilk have delivered another excellent collection of noisy pop gold.

Fightmilk – Home | Facebook

Reckless Yes – An ethical and independent record label

Fightmilk : Not With That Attitude, LP released November 2018 | cambridgemusicreviews

Fightmilk : Both Types Of Hayfever (EP Collection), released May 2018 | cambridgemusicreviews

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The Harriets : A Little Something, EP released 7 May 2021

A rewarding new EP from Leeds based The Harriets, the follow up to their 2021 album ‘Hopefuls’, reviewed here

1.Little Something. This timeless and catchy pop single immediately draws you into the band’s world, where the songs are so intricate and carefully layered that they fold in on themselves with ambiguity and nuance, ‘…I’ll write whatever you like….inspired by the things that you like….you only have to say the word…..the stars will come out of the sky….’. The uncluttered musical arrangement elegantly carries the track along.

2. Days Like These. Probably my favourite on the EP, the lush piano and strings orchestration is the platform for an outstanding ballad. The reflective nostalgia of the vocal subliminally interweaves aspects of Lou Reed’s namechecked ‘Perfect Day’ to gorgeous effect.

3. The Lie. Like an excerpt from a low-key stage musical this is a conversational interlude with a loose and intimate jazz tone, built around a recurring piano line.

4. Jessie’s Song. Led by semi-grandiose piano, this is a strangely addictive song, like track one it self referential about the songwriting art ‘…and the words all come out wrong that I have penned…why should I carry on and why pretend…’. The two voices trade harmonies and viewpoints giving spontaneity and surprise all the way through.

5. For You. In contrast to some of the musical flourishes of previous tracks this starts off as a simple and joyous love song ‘….last night you were on my mind….like you are all the time…’ before an extended playout featuring horns, piano, taut drums and percussion, vocal chorus and a guitar solo. All crammed into four minutes it is a rich and satisfying manifesto for the many facets of the band.

Home – The Harriets (theharrietsband.com)

emzae : Strip Lights, single released 16 April 2021

Always moving forward creatively, Derby based musician emzae adds a new single to her accomplished catalogue.

I have been listening back to many of her highlights (especially the textural beauty of ‘Another Lesson Learnt’ and the explosive tension of ‘As This Day Fades to Another (Rezzonator + Many Elephants Remix)’ ). The sublime 80s electrofunk confection of ‘Thrive’ burst out from lockdown last July and it is still sounding full of hooks and energy.

Now ‘Strip Lights’ places her narration in a gathering where perhaps she just doesn’t want to be, a metaphor for the confusion and unpredictability of modern social interaction; ‘…sit in the bar and listen, I just blur my vision, till the sparkles are just coloured dots…’ and ‘….I don’t want to be in this reality…‘. The lyric may tend towards the sombre but this is tempered by a moderate upbeat pace and the depth of production at which emzae excels.

From the welcoming introduction onward the layers of sound are complex and crafted, always framing the vocal to the right level. There is a recurring countermelody line, a bold flowering of synthesiser for the chorus and a bass groove that dances around underneath it all. It is another rewarding fusion of music, words and atmosphere, helped along by this performer’s unique vision for her work.

“…I definitely feel colour schemes when I’m listening to music, especially when I’m thinking of how artwork and visuals are going to look. I think of Strip Lights as green and orange…”

emzae (emzaemusic.com)

Emzae : Thrive, single released 31 July 2020 | cambridgemusicreviews

Redwood : Rewind, single released 9 April 2021

A new single from Redwood, a multi-talented singer/songwriter based in the Birmingham area. Her 2020 releases showed stylistic versatility and the subtle powers of her voice, with the late-night up tempo jazz of ‘The Radio’ and more recently the introspective musings, attractive melody and big chorus of ‘Honey Sauce’.

Now ‘Rewind’ feels more epic in its ambition. With just an ominous two chord piano introduction Redwood’s vocal breathes in with the enigmatic reminiscence of ‘…my hands are burned and scarred…’. This sets the scene for recollections and reflections around the idea of rewinding and being able to choose between repeating the actions or using life experiences to take a different course.

The piano settles into smooth triplets as the musical dynamics and tension of the song gradually build, controlled carefully over the four minutes of running time. Although essentially acoustic, the band reach an impressive crescendo by the end. Through it all Redwood’s vocals are the powerhouse of this outstanding song, whether quietly expressive, empathetically harmonising or letting loose and soaring all the way up to the heavens.

Redwood – UK | Facebook

Artist Roster – (indiemidlands.co.uk)

Charlotte Young : Coffee and Conversations, EP released April 2021

A new EP from Birmingham based indie-country singer/songwriter Charlotte Young, a follow-up to ‘Blown Away’, released last year.

1.Remedy. With its driving melody, crisp production and big chorus this is a strong opener to the EP. Charlotte keeps the lyrical ideas flowing, conversational in style and plainly setting out the emotions hidden behind the words as the band add depth and nuance.

2.On The Loose. Accidently turn up the distant radio speaker introduction and then you suddenly get the full blast of this energetic slice of country rock. Probably my favourite on the EP it is a full road movie in its three and a half minutes, as Charlotte delivers a winning vocal performance, with full credit also to the sparkling guitar and pedal steel from the band.

3.Praying for Rain. With the poignant opening lines ‘….staring at the driveway where you drove away….wondering how we made those same mistakes…’ this is the big ballad centrepiece of the EP, all building to the desperate resolution of the heartbreaking ‘…..I’m just sitting here praying for rain…’. The unexpected guitar solo, middle-eight and quiet restatement of the chorus all add contrasts to this fine song.

4.Early Light. This one moves along nicely, it has a relaxed pace with a subtle but insistent beat. The lyrical atmosphere created ‘…..coffee and conversations as we walk down town…’ sounds very inviting.

5.Whiplash – Acoustic. A new version of a track from Charlotte’s previous EP; it still has a fairly full instrumentation but with the acoustic guitar at the fore there is plenty of space for the vocal. The catchy chorus stays in your mind as this excellent collection comes to an end.

Charlotte Young | Facebook

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Léanie Kaleido : How to Weigh a Whale Without a Scale, LP released March 2021

Singer/songwriter Léanie Kaleido released her debut album ‘Karamelien’ in 2005, ‘Quicksands and Shadows’ in 2014 and now this enigmatically titled new collection.

Her songs exist in a timeless flow of voices and waterfall piano, seeming to sound simultaneously intimate and broad in scope. Opener ‘All The Things I’m Made Of’ illustrates this perfectly as the dual vocal threads its magic through the echoing instrumentation, before returning to the impressionistic piano figure.

The pensive waltz of ‘Nobody’s Hero’ is a poetic character description with a spiralling chorus, then Léanie’s gentle voice reveals the mystery of the title track ‘…..do you really need to analyse…love is love it has no size…its like trying to weigh a whale without a scale…’. Four minutes of musings and meanderings interweave with the cyclical chord arrangement and harp sound to produce an effective and addictively gorgeous track.

I like the pastoral indie-folk sounds of ‘Mr Dragonfly’ along with the retro-fun of ‘Hat Thief’ where the acoustic guitar is to the fore. The emotional core of the album is probably the final two tracks, the heartbreak recollection and assertion of ‘Teapot Girl’ over stately layers of keyboards, followed by the clever melody, lyrical allusions and soaring chorus of ‘Kite String Mantra’.

Like a dense and rich forest it is an album of mystery and romance to completely lose yourself in.

Léanie Kaleido – The world in the back of a spoon (leanie.com)

Mischa : New Beginnings, EP released February 2021

A track by track review of the excellent debut EP from rising UK country-pop singer/songwriter Mischa.

1.Do You Remember. Released as a single last year this is the most immediate track on the EP; a glorious combination of slow-burning verse gradually rising to a great big title hookline. The nuances of the tune are brought to life by Mischa’s versatile voice and the well-balanced instrumental production features a driving rhythm guitar, duelling with some bluesy lead lines.

2.Won’t Be Long. Slowing down for this ballad, piano and pedal steel set the tone as Mischa shows her vocal range from quiet meditation to soaring above the band.

3.If I Cried. The emotional centrepiece of the four tracks, a stately torch song where the straightforward melody is fully inhabited with a clear statement of heartbreak, ‘…if I cried….would you notice then?….would you stop or do it all again?….’ The powerful vocal performance inexorably draws the listener in to share the sorrow.

4.Moving On. One of the eternal themes of country music, the leaving behind of place or relationship connections to branch out. This track aligns the underlying regret of the verse with a cautious optimism in the punchy chorus. The quieter middle-eight sums it up ‘…you give me no reason to stay…so I’ll just walk away…’, before a final chorus leaves a strong impression of the confident voice and rich production found in these four songs.

Mischa Jankowska | Facebook

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YNES : Better Job, single released 12 February 2021

With roots in Canada and Coventry, singer/songwriter YNES tells it direct. Her 2020 EP ‘Sit Down, Grow up’ featured the minimalist music supporting a flow of lyrical ideas in the less than two minute delight of ‘Im(Mature)’. The inverted relationship song ‘Pretty Sure’ has the words accumulate and build to a restrained frenzy of bitterness, ‘….I’m pretty sure she’s not the one that broke my heart…..that girl is not my enemy today….’ then moves into the likeable ennui of ‘All I Do(Dream of You)’ where ‘….all I do is sit around and wait for you….’

New single ‘Better Job’ takes inspiration from the ill-judged government campaign to reject lifetime training and ambition in creative industries to become something more ‘useful’ to society. YNES turns this into a loose and noisy tirade, where the music can barely keep pace with her exhausting streams of words and ideas.

Punk poet, performance artist, art rocker – YNES hits the spot.

https://www.facebook.com/ynesmusic/

Scatter : Disappear, EP released February 2021

A new four track EP from Scatter, the recording name for Stockholm based musician Erik Bergqvist (also part of Victorian Tin and Schaum).

1.Disappear. The mellow title piece features echoing electric piano with a late-night pace and a verse that takes its time to build up to the cryptic phrase ‘….gravity’s the same or slightly weakened thanks to old champagne….’, but there is less ambiguity about the key lines ‘…..and you’re gone so I might just also disappear….’. The whole track is framed with melancholy; reminiscent of some of the bleaker tones of the eighties UK charts where the pop gems emerged triumphantly from the music scenes of declining industrial towns.

2.Eyes Shut Down. Now sink into this track, a waltzing meditation on love and loss that seems to roll across a natural landscape filmed in black and white. A cello sound and brief guitar solo breaks through the mix but it is the soothing rhythm of the acoustic guitar that gently dominates.

3.Forgetfulness. This is an EP of textural variety, on probably my favourite song the fully electronic backing moves along animatedly as Erik’s vocal adds the emotional naturalism. It is akin to Mark Hollis’s velvet tones on tracks by atmospheric-electro pioneers Talk Talk.

4.The Seventh Stranger. A loosely structured melodic ballad; roving fretless bass, acoustic and electric piano and guitar, found voices and a double vocal weaving around to form an immersive five minutes.

Everlasting Records | Facebook

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Jackie Beverly : Sea Glass, single released November 2020

Combining a pure folk voice with the lustre of electronic layers and a pulsing rhythm underlay, composer and singer/instrumentalist Jackie Beverly released ‘Sweet Goodbye’ earlier this year. This continued to build her reputation on the Irish music scene after the soulful tones of 2019’s ‘Someone Else’ (showcased to perfection on a live YouTube version).

Starting with acoustic guitar and vocal, new single ‘Sea Glass’ is a creative weaving together of timeless imagery ‘……. separate the sea glass from the sand….but the waves are strong….’, elegiac reflection (including a poignant sample of Marilyn Monroe ‘….I could easily be alone it doesn’t bother me to be alone….’) and attractive instrumentation. This includes the richness of a cello, echoing acoustic piano and some unhurried and sensitive percussion.

The video carries on the sense of melancholy but tempered with macabre fun as Jackie’s band and friends appear as ghost-sheeted figures in the background. They gradually multiply and take over until they are chasing Jackie down the road in Dublin’s Portobello as the repeated line ‘…..no-one ever told me that the days and nights would feel the same….’ brings this attractive but thoughtful track to an end.

https://www.facebook.com/jackiebeverlymusic/

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