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Monthly Archives: August 2013

woodypitneyyoucanstayTITLE: You Can Stay
ARTIST: Woody Pitney
LABEL: Unsigned
RELEASED: May 16th 2013

It’s no secret that I love talented young singer-songwriters who bring something different to the table and still manage to maintain a certain air of cool. Sure, some people can stand on a stage with a guitar and look stylish while singing in a lilting voice that we’ve all heard before but it’s when someone has something a little special that I sit up and listen.

22-year-old Melbourne based artist Woody Pitney has just that with his brand new single You Can Stay, which is a perfect folk-pop track. It’s the first taste of his new EP which is set for release later this year. By the looks of things, it’s going to be a happy record that you’ll keep on playing to warm you up on the cold winter nights.

woodypitneyBeginning with a rippling acoustic intro to rival Of Monsters And Men and chimes which filter through Woody’s beautiful vocal licks. Capturing the authentic country sound that has become so popular in recent times, You Can Stay starts to run through a catchy rhythm with a chorus that you’ll be singing for a long time.

By the second verse, the song has evolved into a full-blown folk party with hushes from the shakers and choral backing vocals. Clapping along is a must as the story of the conflict between friends which is at the very heart of the song continues. It’s a song that looks to celebrate the petty nature of arguments between loved ones and true friendship is what always wins out in the end. “You can stay but you’ve gotta let it go” indicates that the friend can stay but the argument stops.

Playful and fun with the same rustic charm that Mumford and Sons have brought to the masses, Woody Pitney’s original sound is definitely one to watch. Warning: you won’t be able to get rid of this one easily!

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xsaraalbumGIG: Are There Dragons In Your Heart? Album Launch
ARTISTS: XSARA, Dove and Boweevil, The Three Belles, Rae Kelly
VENUE: The Finsbury, London
DATE: August 29th 2013

Although I’ve been a music blogger for quite some time, I only received my first album launch invitation a couple of weeks ago from jazz pop singer XSARA. Her new album Are There Dragons In Your Heart? was the cause of the invite and on arrival to the quaint little pub, I was greeted by the lovely lady herself armed with a goodie bag containing both the new album, her previous release Are You Living In A Paradox? and a couple of button badges. A spectacular dessert buffet complete with mini cupcakes, macarons and cheesecakes was laid on and as I settled down with a plate of deliciousness, I was excited to hear some music that was new to me.

First up was Irish singer-songwriter Rae Kelly who treated us to a set of piano-led tracks related through a beautiful pure voice. Accompanied by a guitarist, she charmed the crowd with songs such as Render All Your Thoughts. Surrounded by a quirky air reminiscent of Regina Spektor, the intimate venue provided plenty of scope for Rae’s songs to reach optimum resonance.

She was followed by a fabulous trio of ladies known as The Three Belles. So much more than a singing group, this 1940s swing tribute are great actresses and all-round showstoppers. Dressed in scarlet with immaculate hairdos, they performed a mixture of original material and covers. Their rendition of I Wanna Be Like You from The Jungle Book threw up some amusing monkeying around while their version of Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend rounded off their performance with style.

Changing the tone a little was Norfolk blues and roots duo Dove and Boweevil. Armed with a guitar and a tambourine, their set consisted of some folksy-pop songs with some great stories behind them. Playing songs such as Outta Town and Food For Love, they rocked up a storm on stage and were the perfect immediate pre-performance to the lady of the night.

When XSARA finally took to the stage and sat down at her keyboard, we knew we were in for a great time. Her whole band stood around her as she played songs from the new record which she admitted was pretty different to her first jazz-strong album. Toning it down and offering a less showy approach to new songs such as Sticks and Stones and Business Of Bodies. Touching on her previous material with One Eyed Man, she showcased the new record perfectly while the brass band faithfully provided the funk.

A full album review of Are There Dragons In Your Heart? will be coming up in the next couple of weeks. I’d like to thank XSARA for kindly inviting me along to the party, which was a really great night.

play_rewind_eject epTITLE: Maryland
ARTIST: play_rewind_eject
LABEL: Oh Mercy! Records
RELEASED: August 10th 2013

Having spent ten years touring with Ipswich band Hayze, Pete Thompson picked up a wide range of experiences of life on the road. A single produced by The Darkness’ Dan Hawkins and a support slot for The Stranglers meant that the band had some pretty big successes. However, when they split in 2010, Pete continued to write music and eventually created play_rewind_eject.

He has now released three records under his new project, Never Before But Maybe Again, Back To Forward and Chelsea Bikes with Maryland being the fourth. Pete says of the new release:

“I used live musicians for all parts on this EP. In the past I used sampled drums and programmed bass but this time every instrument is played live and I think it’s easy to hear the impact of this when you listen to it. Over the last couple of years I’ve become a bit obsessed with American writers and performers like Bruce Springsteen, Jesse Malin, Tom Petty and The Gaslight Anthem – they have a very descriptive story-telling to their songs and I wanted to try and replicate that with this EP. It also influenced the EP name, Maryland conjures up the same imagery to me as Nebraska but ironically there is a train station near London called Maryland which couldn’t be anything other than British – so it’s a juxtaposed position between an Americana influence but a very British sound.”

petethompsonThis clashing of worlds is pretty apparent on the EP with the three tracks compiling all having flavours of both classic British indie and smooth American soul. It begins with Innocence, a soft acoustic number which is a social commentary on how the modern world appears to rob innocence. As you might expect from the subject matter, it’s not exactly a happy upbeat track but it’s delivered with powerful passionate vocals. A dark growl of the electric guitar pierces the calm acoustic and is joined by a folksy tambourine beat. It’s a classic mellow festival song that certainly makes you think.

Middle track Everybody Knows is the happy-go-lucky summery track. A metallic riff with tinny sounding drums support the punk-ish vocals. There’s a definite angst in it but it still keeps with the catchy indie style which makes for its pretty skipping rhythm. Its unpolished charm and atmospheric piano and guitar merging means it’s a memorable song that you can’t help listening to again and again.

Ending on Circles, which stays true to its name and has lots of repetition involved. Acoustic strumming introduces it but Pete’s distinctive retro rock ‘n’ roll voice adds a bit of edge. Bluesy guitars add the American slant as they whine through the catchy rhythm. The seamless effect created by the ever-running riffs and drum beat makes for an easy-going, relaxing track that you can kick back to in the sun.

Maryland is an EP that is short and sweet but it manages to fit so much into just three tracks. Pete is a master at putting together words and music in order to create songs that lift right off the page. You’ll dance, you’ll ponder and most of all, you’ll play it again and then rewind it before finally ejecting.

tonightalivealbumTITLE: The Other Side
BAND: Tonight Alive
LABEL: Fearless Records
RELEASED: September 6th 2013

The new album from Australian pop-punks Tonight Alive is on the horizon and it comes with a lot of anticipation. Their last full-length album, What Are You So Scared Of? was released back in 2011 and since then, the band have toured the UK, US and Europe supporting bands such as Young Guns and Pierce The Veil as well as appearances at Slam Dunk festival in the UK and Warped Tour in the US.

The Other Side will no doubt be the pop-punk’s new favourite record with some passionately delivered vocals and some ear-splitting riffs. Singer Jenna is the star of the show once again throwing girl power into the tough, metallic framework. Tracks such as The Ocean, Complexes and No Different see her voice being stretched to the limit while the instruments perform a slamming furore.

tonightaliveLonely Girl sees the guitars growl and snarl through strong drum beats while the vocals give a heart-rending performance. It has a real fiery personality and is a great moshpit anthem, much like The Fire, which has a ricocheting riff running throughout. It also has a strong passion in the vocals behind mechanical guitars in the instrumental. So much determination fires through it and it’s a really energetic, inspiring track.

Classic pop-punk is included in Come Home and Say Please, which both have ringing riffs and vocal tricks. Come Home has a summery feel with catchy, cheerful vocals and perfect guitar blending whereas Say Please has a pretty melody and desperate pop-rock vocals. There is a dark sadness to it, which is filled with hope. Both tracks although they have very different moods are about waiting and longing for a lover to come back to them. It’s a universal song that conjures up lots of emotions.

Visiting the past in the title track, The Other Side is an acoustic interlude that is quite possibly my favourite track on the album. It looks back on teenage memories of the power of first love and creates an atmosphere of chilled nostalgia. Powerful and regretful, it’s a song with a real story attached to it and it’s a story that everyone has their own version of. I love that they named the album after it as it automatically makes it the focus of the whole record.

Taking things down a notch is Don’t Wish, Hell and Back and You Don’t Owe Me Anything. Don’t Wish is a slow piano-led number with dreamy ripples and a singing guitar. The drum adds a fierce element as the vocals blend into the instruments and metallic spurts come from the riffs. The piano comes in to haunt the end while Hell and Back is a more mellow atmospheric number. The vocals take on an Avril Lavigne style and although it is still traditional pop-rock, there is a mourning sound to it.  Closing track You Don’t Owe Me Anything is a beautiful acoustic number which takes on the form of a sad pretty ballad. Halfway through the guitars and drum enter and amp it up to a big showcase finish.

All in all, it’s a great album with beautiful pop-punk ballads pulling it together. There is still plenty of attitude involved but if you’re a metal-head, this is far too sweet for you. Sure, there is aggression on some of the songs but it simply charges the pop bubble and gives it a bit of an edge.

joyfocusepTITLE: Mission Critical Extended Play List
BAND: JoyFocus
LABEL: Atomic Monster Records
RELEASED: August 9th 2013

Chicago rock duo JoyFocus recently got in contact with their latest EP to show me. I love bands with powerful female singers and JoyFocus certainly have that. As the band suggests, the focus is very much on singer Holly Joy supported by the musical talent of Rikk Currence. They play songs with a universal appeal that cover the very best elements of rock and pop.

Shockingly, they’ve been around since 2001 and have gained a loyal fanbase in America and Europe. They’ve released three album and seven singles while gigging all over the world. Promoting a completely family-friendly image, they’re ready to take anyone and everyone along with them on their journey to become a big name.

joyfocusTheir latest release Mission Critical Extended Play List begins with Love Song Cliche, introduced by a slow piano building drama and a guitar note repeating. Holly’s distinctive, witchy vocal comes in and the backing takes on a spidery effect. The vocals evolve into a Madonna-esque, 80s pop tone with a classic rock grounding with the catchy guitars launching into a big instrumental towards the end, proceeded by a brief synth interlude.

No Good Alone is a love song with a lot of desperation instilled. Repetitive guitar strums again give way to a stark, bare-faced vocal setting the scene of a wonderful lover who somehow got free. The vocal pleads for her love to return with an attitude in the backing vocals, showing a fierce passion. A classic American pop-rock sound surrounds it while impressive guitars ring free to the catchy melody.

The stand-out song is Think Fast, as it’s something quite different. It wouldn’t look out of place on a burlesque artist’s set with its sexy Gaga air and bewitching vocals, which are sung through a mischievous grin. Quirky electronic tones run through the back of the dark and dangerous atmosphere which is incredibly enchanting.

Ending on Hopefully Home, which is my favourite song on the album. Full of nostalgia with melodic vocals and a slow crying violin in the background, all set to a swaying rhythm. There is a certain shadow to the vocals which give it a bit of edge, making it a melancholy rock ballad. A bluesy guitar solo followed by some theatrical harmonies follow the final chorus. It’s beautiful chill-out music that would also captivate a live audience.

I love bands who take a refreshing approach to what’s normal. Indeed, swearing and shouting has become too common in rock music and to see a band producing good, clean music with a unique beautiful sound is something so rare. This is just one reason why I love this record.

 

I’m afraid there weren’t many questions for me to choose from this week. Some would have evolved into something far too personal for online publication and there were a lot of questions aimed at certain professions, which I therefore couldn’t answer. However, I’ve picked a question that should hopefully give you some inspiration and also a little insight into my tastes. If you have any questions for me, leave them in a comment for me to answer next week!

What is a “must watch” series/film on Netflix?

I have only recently re-joined Netflix after having it as a student. Back then, I cancelled it after the free one month trial due to it having a far too small range of films to watch. Indeed, it still does have a very limited range of films. However, when I left uni, I got into watching certain TV series that Netflix is actually pretty good for.

I’m not sure Breaking Bad really needs any more fans but if you love fast-paced, unpredictable dramas then it’s a definite must-watch. It is quickly accelerating towards its finale now but Netflix has every episode, so you can catch up on what is going on. Dexter is another series that is aired on Fox here but is also available on Netflix for those of us without Sky. As I live in the UK, Netflix airing these amazing American TV series is a god-send.

There are also some great British series on there such as Doctor Who (the old and the new), although not every episode is there, which is disappointing. Downton Abbey is another British show which has had a lot of success Stateside and therefore gets the Netflix approval.

One series I’ve always wanted to get into that isn’t available on Netflix is House. It has had some really great reviews and when I went to watch it on Netflix, I was upset that it wasn’t there. Netflix is definitely better for TV than it is for films. None of the Harry Potter films are available, which is a shame but The Hunger Games is, as is The Hobbit. There is no denying that there are some great films available but it seems that there’s never the one that I want to watch!

 

Critically-acclaimed film director Ben Wheatley has made his first venture in the world of music by directing the video for upcoming Editors single Formaldehyde. Merging surrealism, horror and suspense, the video was shot in Almeria, Spain and has a western theme reminiscent of the Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leones’ films that have been shot in the same location. Formaldehyde is the fourth single to come from Editors’ latest album The Weight of Your Love and will be released on September 2nd.