With an electronic swoop, UK pop composer, singer, instrumentalist and producer Hydra Lerna presages her new single with words that get straight to the point ‘…you can’t say that I’m not damaged, the scars are on my back….you know that I come with baggage, we have to face the fact….’
As the percussion threads through the stark but lush synth notes we soon get to the uplift of the chorus ‘…I’m ready to be OK again…’. Hydra has a track record of dynamic, soul-searching singles where the often dark tone of the lyrics ( ‘…touch me like a razor, hold me like a bed of nails…’ from last release ‘Camera’) is always tempered by a gift for melody carried by her rich soaring voice which adds a balance of optimism to the whole.
This release is the last one before a creative break to realign her musical career and it is a fitting temporary finale; memorably the music rolls, pushes and pulls like gathering storm clouds before the sun breaks through. In the eye of the hurricane of swirling keyboard layers and textures the multi-tracked voices add a lushness and grandeur to the resolution of the title line.
The last acapella lines float away into the ether and her single unadorned voice is the final sound we hear for the present from this talented and enigmatic performer.
A new single from powerpunk quartet Fightmilk, a precursor to their second album which is now due in early 2021. Singer Lily has been treading a quieter emotional line with the release of an EP by her alter ego ‘Captain Handsome’ and this track is a bit of a crossover between that work and the full-on Fightmilk recordings. The band have a knack of setting an emotional tone with their music and then in the words fixating on an aspect of the theme, building up the tension obsessively until it overwhelms.
In this lyric the dark-edged insecurities flow ‘…she’s so confident, confident… and we look so alike…’, to the discontent of ‘…I’ve been cheering you on from the sidelines…you’ve been running around like a pro…its not the seventies any more and you say its a shame…’ Finally resolving into the repeated pay-off ‘…maybe if you had a sister you wouldn’t be this way…’. This is another excellent vocal performance from Lily, full of nuance and emotion.
The words hold your attention but it is the music that eventually wins over. Starting with a 1980s calming bass and drum beat the guitars subtly appear before stretching out with short solos and before the end an insurmountable bank of glorious noise. There is a piano somewhere in there too. It is a departure for the band and along with previous release ‘I’m Starting To Think You Don’t Even Want To Go To Space’ hints at richness to come on the new LP.
A new single from Midlands based singer/songwriter Madison Fiorenza is a welcome slice of bluesy atmosphere, pervaded by a feel of darkening evenings and large open horizons. The delivery and tone of the opening line ‘…I wrap my eyes around you…you look at me like I’m in distress…’ seems to reference the much covered “I Put a Spell on You”, the 1956 classic torch song by “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins, and immediately draws the listener inexorably into Madison’s world.
The combination of acoustic and echoing electric instruments creates the texture, but at the heart of this track is a carefully structured pop song where the stealthy verses set up a killer chorus ‘…like a fever dream, seeping through the cracks in my quicksand mind…’.
The musicians do a great job of balancing their contribution to the track, but the central vocal performance from Madison is the key as it glows with relaxed emotion, enhanced by some light and airy harmonies in the chorus.
This is an impressive debut from a promising new talent.
A welcome new release from Midlands based singer/songwriter/instrumentalist emzae.
She is a performer who never repeats herself and continues to push at the creative edges of electronic pop. She always has one eye on contemporary musical textures and lyrical themes, realising that the strongest statements come out of real life experiences.
From the pensive insights of ‘Another Lesson Learnt’ to the taut musical flexings of ‘As This Day Fades to Another’ and the most recent concise pop bite of ‘Waste Our Time’ her recent succession of singles maintain a high standard of content, brought to sparkling life by her self-production skills and attention to detail.
The words on this new track reflects the time when emzae realised the importance of being yourself, instead of endless circling to fit in with peers and the social difficulties that can arise. Also that maybe sometimes it is best to just have a dance and not worry too much.
Certainly this is a track to move to; it draws heavily on some retro-classic influences; from the minimalist electro grooves of the first Madonna album and the gloriously meandering funky keyboard bass that recalls some of Stevie Wonder’s early experimentation with deep and punchy synthesiser lines way back in the early seventies.
Add lots of immaculately timed clicks and beats, a winning vocal embellished with spoken voice and distant responses and a killer chorus line ‘…this is what it feels like to be free…’. Wrap this in a smooth sonic veneer and weave into a perfect song structure and you have her sharpest three minutes so far.
Order Of The Toad are a Three-Piece Indie Alternative Psych/Pop Band from Glasgow, due to release their second album in the autumn.
For this new song the title refers to the herb Lady’s Mantle or Alchemilla Mollis – it allegedly has good anti-inflammatory powers and also according to a gardener friend of the band “…the drops are supposed to have all sorts of magical properties including turning ordinary metals into gold..”.
That is another contribution to the mythology of the song; it is a track that taps into that late 60s period of psychedelia when a song could draw on baroque or medieval instrumentation in its influences, take a lyrical idea from Tolkein, nature or hallucination, end up at Number 2 in the charts and it all seem perfectly normal.
Like Syd Barrett’s early Pink Floyd contributions there is often an inbuilt timelessness too.
‘Lady’s Mantle’ moves along at a spirited pace, driven by the pulsing rhythm of acoustic guitar that throws some flamenco flourishes and lines into the mix too. The vocal tour de force is from Gemma Fleet (also of The Wharves), sounding like solo, multivoice and harmony all at once. The song is a neat balance of sinister and pop and has that addictive but slightly unnerving quality of the best psyche sounds (as does the accompanying video, which appears to feature a singing orange…)
Swedish duo Victorian Tin began making music several years ago and now have renewed recording, beginning with ‘Silver and Perfume’, included on a compilation and reviewed on this site as ‘….strangely addictive, with shades of 80s cult popsters Japan as it features roving bass slidings and a world-weary vocal….’.
The newly reworked single ‘Chagall’ is named after the twentieth century Russian-French artist, famous for his colourful, dreamlike imagery. His reproductions have featured in many carefully planned living spaces ever since his death in 1985. While superficially of the mainstream, the images still have an unnerving quality and their otherworldliness is also reflected in the name of the band and this track, especially the slightly dissonant string quartet introduction.
The pace picks up as the rest of the instruments push the the song along, driven by the rhythm of an acoustic guitar. The lyric describes an encounter with a painting (‘Over The Town’) depicting ‘….a man and a woman flying or escaping in the sky and she is blue he is green…’ then the musings become more sinister ‘…and you slept here in my grave…when was it…in another time?….’. An echoing piano joins the mysterious party as the narrator becomes lost in his world of the picture.
It is an attractive and enigmatic track, a prelude to a four track EP due later this year…
This is a new version of La Yarará by Malena Zavala; it was the title track on her second album released earlier this year but this is an as-live studio recording cut at the legendary Abbey Road studios. The singer is based in London but draws on her Argentinian roots, she describes herself as being influenced by many sub genres; Cumbia, Afro-Cuban, Afro-funk, Andean folk, Argentine folk, bolero-son, and for this track, ‘reggaeton’ which is a music style originating in Puerto Rico during the late 1990s.
From the mysterious ascending keyboard in the introduction before the full band effortlessly join in the party it is a sinous, flowing track which evokes the image of the serpent of the title. As well as Malena’s sparkling voice the percussion and unadorned drums are crucial to the essence of the song and a spectacular trumpet solo appears from nowhere and nearly steals the show at the end as it duels with the graceful electric guitar lines.
I saw Malena and her band at the Blue Moon in Cambridge last year (see review below) so this is a reminder for me of an excellent show which has stayed in my memory…
‘Hide and Seek’, is the excellent new song from Leeds Indie folk duo Sunflower Thieves.
Debut single ‘Two Halves’ was a mellow introduction to their work, with a meditative verse giving way to the catchy chorus featuring their spot-on harmony vocals. Follow-up ‘Heavy Weight’ had a distinct melancholy threading through the descending chord sequence and carefully crafted melody and meditative lyrics ‘….what would you do if all the streetlights burned out?…’ resolving into ‘….restlessly waiting for a train….to take away your heavy weight…’.
The band perform live with just acoustic guitar and their luminous vocals but this new track allows other instruments and extra voices to drift in and out, adding subtle multi-layers to the mix. The overall effect is laid back, atmospheric and as summery a sound as you could want. It is a warm and comfortable lyric, evoking reminiscence of younger, less complicated days ‘…..falling asleep in the back of your car… hoping you’ll carry me up to my room…’ , feelings so good that ‘….I don’t want this to end…’.
It is definitely a track to fully immerse yourself in.
This is their third single and you can find other high-quality tracks on YouTube and various radio shows too if you do some searching…
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 single from highly creative troubadour Jeremy Tuplin, a precursor to new album ‘Violet Waves’, due later this year.
In 2019 he released ‘Pink Mirror’, an LP absolutely crammed with musical and lyrical ideas. It embraced love, mythology, social comment along with detailed musings on the grand and mundane (see review below). With his understated vocal delivery and either a simple and elegant guitar accompaniment for ‘The Beast’ or the progressive band excursions of ‘Pandora’s Box’ the sounds always complemented the direction of the words.
‘Space Magic’ is a track featuring his band The Ultimate Power Assembly, contributing a mellow lounge-jazz bossa nova groove perfect for heady summer days. The guitar dances around the main chord sequence, ringing out and playing around with the main tune. The words are a spaced-out road trip of surreal and imaginative astronomical references, ‘…the Saturn moon Enceladus – supposedly nice this time of year….’ or ‘…let’s dance, Cassiopeia’s second chance….’, inviting us to join him for the ride and ‘….take a chance…at the black hole dance…’ which may feature ‘…Capital Gold Motown Classics…’.
This journey culminates in what sounds like the heaven of ‘….intergalactic truth love-manic wreaking havoc in the most beautiful manner….’.
An electric guitar solo flows seamlessly into the mix and then fades out as this evocative song floats off into the ether.