On previous single ‘Heart Beat’, Collars created an instantly likeable track, fashioned from minimal instrumentation, a scant regard for time signature discipline and plenty of sonic surprises including an organ solo and the mellifluous vocal that playfully rolls around the melody.
Now this indiepop duo from Cambridgeshire have mixed in many extra elements at their isolated home studio in the Fens, making their sound slightly more claustrophobic with an undercurrent of nervous tension for the conversational lyric of ‘Hey Lizzie, Lay It On Me’.
Driven along by a choppy guitar with some lush synthesiser interruptions this uncluttered DIY live music experience feels like it could be in your living room with you, as of course it is in the accompanying video…
(This is a release from a forthcoming EP ‘Everything Present 1’, hopefully to be showcased at The Blue Moon in Cambridge on 31st July 2021)
Olive Beardmore is a multi-talented singer/songwriter from Birmingham, who started releasing music in 2017. Earlier tracks were untreated indiepop gems, especially the collision of words and staccato guitars on ‘Sirens’. There was the wistful six minute balladry of ‘Jumpers For Goalposts’, before the dreamier territory of ‘Fiesta’ in 2020 featuring a video full of disconnection, ambiguous glances and hazy backgrounds. This impressively frames this fine song to great effect, with the restrained verses and big waterfall of guitar that engulfs the choruses.
Now ‘With The Heavens On Your Side (You)’, Oliver has stayed in that partial dream world, this time upping the pace and creating a rich production that shimmers and echoes, giving the track a bright and crisp veneer, including a surprise guitar solo.
The vocal delivery is a winner, blending fully into the spectrum of the other instruments but always leading the track. Resolving into the key lines ‘…because its you and I always knew…’ the chorus sounds genuine and celebratory, a bit reminiscent of some of the popgold moments of early Keane singles.
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…”
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.
Named after the founder of the city in the 7th Century, Birmingham duo Beorma have released ‘Drown’, the final track from ‘Virtual Emotionality’, their debut EP. The seven track collection is an amalgamation of smooth synthesiser and rhythms, veering between jazz, R&B and indie pop.
There is an emphasis on emotive vocals featuring some strong messages by singing and spoken word from the two voices. Highlights include the lush and stately but sinister 80s duet pop of ‘Control You’ (it is a gorgeous track, probably my favourite on the EP), as well as the sinuous summery vibe of ‘Right Behind You’.
Now ‘Drown’ is a more experimental piece, full of atmosphere, treated vocals and a cyclical chord sequence that lodges in your brain. With a loose structure the lyrics interweave as the voices drift in and out, juxtaposing descriptions of anxious feelings with subtle echoing keyboard chords and a heartbeat marking the time. The duo have again shown how to establish a clearly defined mood from the outset of the song.
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….
A new single from UK singer/songwriter Hannah Rose Kessler, a preview of her EP due in March.
Previous release ‘I Really Wanna’ was a hazy meandering where the vocal and harmonies spun jazzy lines on top of amiable guitar, acoustic bass and quiet percussion. A track that pulled the listener into a warming but slightly dissonant world.
Now ‘Come Feel Me’ brings martial percussion to the fore, hollow and unrelenting over deep and fuzzy bass pedals. The vocal seems isolated in the quite bleak wasteland of the music where there may be the optimism of ‘….colours changing in the sky…’ but soon the realisation of ‘…..so lonely, I’m lonely, we’re lonely….’. Halfway through the track adds some huge slices of industrial guitar before the loneliness and the plea of the title phrase gradually fades away.
On repeated listens you realise that this is a real grower and that underneath the harsh exterior this is a smart, intricately structured pop song. Hannah writes and plays music which is not trapped in a narrow genre; on the basis of these two tracks the EP should be an intriguing listen.
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.
The UK Country/Americana scene continues to flourish, with performers like singer/songwriter Harriet Rose in the vanguard. Her previous single ‘Small Town Chains’ was a positive, rousing anthem – a re-assertion of one of the standard themes of country music; leaving the limitations of hometown roots in pursuit of musical ambition. The confident performance with the storyline brought to life in the accompanying video was a convincing debut.
On her excellent new release ‘Love Me Like That’ Harriet has slowed the pace – with the delicate opening setting the framework of the song ‘…sitting in another bar, waiting for it all to close…knowing that you’re out with her…’. The acoustic guitar is joined by a quietly played banjo and the music moves in and out of an almost full band sound.
It is a sombre song, edged with melancholy and questioning ‘….was there something that I could have done?….’. The carefully placed lines continue to build up in layers, overlapping through the loose melodic structure, as does the varied instrumental backing. Harriet’s plaintive, tender vocal lays the emotion out for all to hear, given a break by a short guitar solo before the song quietens again to make the regrets and emotions of the lyrics crystal clear.
Timeless and placeless, ‘Solid Heart’ is a gentle meditation appropriate to a season of cold and consideration, with some hints of optimism too. Chicago based singer/instrumentalist/producer Gia Margaret has taken a straightforward chord sequence, added electronics and piano embellishments and a voice that is hardly there; almost ghostly but still able to drive the song along. The overall effect is calmly breath-taking.
Gia describes her music as ‘sleep rock’ and on previous release ‘Barely There’ the atonal synth background joined with a spoken vocal to create an emotionally rich soundscape; on her other 2020 single ‘apathy’ hypnotic arpeggios threaded their way through dreamier territory with no horizon in sight. This was paired with ‘body’, a sampled lecture on physical self-awareness that raised more questions than answers, as the electronic sequencing danced along, beguiling and rewarding.