Tuesday 30 June 2020

LISTEN: Novo Amor - 'Decimal / Halloween'

Rewind a couple of years to 2018, and I was just about to have the absolute joy of discovering Novo Amor, AKA Welsh artist Ali Lacey. Skip through what is probably a couple of hundred (at least) listens of his record Birthplace, a Union Chapel show and getting to look after Ali and the band at Bushstock last year where they played a stunning headline set... and I am very much still adoring the tunes. A treat, therefore, to have not one but two new tracks last week - a double single to make me ecstatic and to overwhelm me with all the sad feelings (... the perfect mix!) 

Both tunes, Decimal and Halloween, are gorgeous, unsurprisingly. I could say more, but in this instance, I very much want to let the music do the talking - and I'm writing this at midnight when I should definitely be asleep. Just know that Ali is without a doubt my favourite musical discovery of the last couple of years. Once you've listened to the new double single below, and cried a little, listen to Birthplace and figure out for yourself why I love it so much (and while you're there, you should most definitely check out Holding from Hailaker and Nano from David Grubb - projects from members of the Novo Amor family.) 

While Ali usually likes to leave the tracks up to fans' interpretation, I grabbed a quick quote from him about Halloween"it's a song I wrote on Halloween night of last year, the day that ended what was quite a bad month for me personally. I hadn't felt motivated to pick up my guitar in a little while and when I did I just felt like all the good things had left my mouth, I was out of things to say, which birthed the first line of the song." 

"The chorus calls back to Halloween of 2011, when I fell and hit my head on the sink and had to have it glued back up. The song was originally just five verses about how shit October was for me and it just got me thinking about that old Halloween and how I'm kind of feeling the same 9 years later. I usually don't like to have such obvious lyrics, but I like how the song lets people in to a more personal side of me, in a way. I feel like the line "I miss my friends that I pretend I don't need" sums me up completely." 

Follow Novo Amor - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 29 June 2020

LISTEN: Matilda Mann - 'As It Is'

Love love love this. New from Matilda Mann, As It Is is the first track taken from her forthcoming EP, the follow up to If That Makes Sense, which has so far amassed over 1.7m streams... crikey! The new EP sees Matilda, who at 19 years old has already racked up support from the likes of Mahogany and BBC Introducing, support slots with Arlo Parks and The Staves, working with Rich Cooper (Billie Marten, Lucy Rose), Rob Milton (Easy Life, Holly Humberstone) and Matt Maltese. Writing her first song at 11, she's been writing ever since, taking inspiration from conversations with friends, and those overheard on the tube or whilst working in a pub.

Talking about writing the new track, Matilda explains that "at the time my boyfriend was in America for a month and I spoke about how I missed him (and how in relationships before, I had never actually missed them when they were away, and it was always a big sign for me.) I had a few friends at the time who were coming to the end of their relationships, mainly due to long distance, but it was dragging on because they didn't know how to let go. I think sometimes it can be quite daunting to imagine yourself single and to lose a part of your life that you've just grown accustom to always being there." 

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Thursday 25 June 2020

WATCH: Leon Bridges - 'Sweeter'

I've got so much love for this track from Leon Bridges and Terrace Martin, released a couple of weeks ago. Originally written and recorded for a future album, the pair felt compelled by recent events to release the song at once, as it is written from the perspective of a black man taking his last breath and feeling his spirit leave his body. 

The video for the track (below) was directed by Leon's longtime photographer and collaborator Rambo, and was filmed in the neighbourhood he grew up in in Texas. It's a family affair, featuring his father and friends from childhood - Leon explains "I wanted to shine a light on the black community in Fort Worth, and specifically my childhood community from the Southside of Fort Worth. I had my friends and family with me; this is a celebration of our Blackness." 

Leon says "growing up in Texas I have personally experienced racism, my friends have experienced racism. From adolescence we are taught how to conduct ourselves when we encounter police to avoid the issues of police brutality. The death of George Floyd was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. It was the first time I wept for a man I never met. I am George Floyd, my brothers are George Floyd, and my sisters are George Floyd. I cannot and will not be silent any longer." 

Terrace adds that "it is always an honor to share a platform with my dear brother Leon Bridges. This is meditation music; it is not music for the ears but rather music for the heart. I truly believe that eyes have been deceiving us for so long but the heart always tells the truth. The heart needs to be repaired. Black folk have been deceived so many years, the only thing that can turn it around is a heart full of love." 

Follow Leon Bridges - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 24 June 2020

WATCH: T Truman - 'Holiday'

I'm currently adjusting back to full time work (the real world is really tiring, no?) so apologies for the slightly quieter social media feeds and fewer posts... I'm currently on a day off, crying along with the new Phoebe Bridgers record, eagerly awaiting new Novo Amor premiering in a few hours, and having a boogie to this debut track. An alter ego in place to escape accountability for his lyrics, T Truman is the solo project from Timothy Lanham, one half of Halloweens and keyboard player for The Vaccines, and I am very much here for it. 

Holiday is the first track taken from an upcoming EP co-written and co-produced by his friend and long-term collaborator Geoff Roberts, and features ex-Vaccines drummer Pete Robertson on drums. The track paints a lyrically care-free picture with lines such as - "cos I just wanna forget about things, and have a good time ... take a holiday man, just cos I can, let tomorrow take care of itself." Timothy adds that "if I were to take the lyrics completely seriously, I don't think I'd like me." The video for the track is very DIY, "like an Anchorman feat. Joe Exotic unofficial tribute video, but that's what you get when you leave me in self isolation with a handycam." Loving it!

Follow T Truman - Facebook | Instagram.

Monday 22 June 2020

LISTEN: Sabiyha - 'Love Me Alone'

If you're following the 2020 playlist you may have heard this track already... I'm sharing it here too as I'm really really enjoying. New from Sabiyha, a London-based British-Guyanese artist who I've been following since I caught her opening up a show for Sam Beeton way back in the slightly simpler days of 2012. Her second track of the year, co-produced by Avi Barath and Andrew James at Deptford Studios, new track Love Me Alone is one encouraging self-love and empowerment. 

Inspired by a period of her life following a string of toxic relationships, Sabiyha writes about the track: “I'm someone who embraces sexuality, however, that does not give people a free pass to treat me like an object. The behaviour of the men I was meeting made me feel 'like poison', assuming I’m someone that I’m not. I was taking that narrative on and near enough shaming myself. I wanted to hear remorse from these guys. This song basically says “I'm over this bullsh*t, I'm not letting this affect my self-worth; I'll love me”. We all have moments where our self esteem waivers, and we question ourselves as people. This doesn't indicate weakness, but the many shades of light and dark that we experience and how we can work through it.”

Follow Sabiyha - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 18 June 2020

ALBUM NEWS: Tempesst - 'Must Be A Dream'

Dreamy news for your Thursday! It may be drizzly outside, but Tempesst are back with their gorgeously sunny vibes with new single On The Run and they're not stopping there.... they've got a debut album on the horizon, Must Be A Dream (that's the album name but it is also a dream, I'm sure) which is due for release via Pony Recordings on September 30th. 

The new track, vocalist Toma Banjanin explains, "was written about a close friend who disappeared for a decade and returned as someone completely different, and it's an ongoing trauma. When I connected the music to the lyrics, to try and finish the song, it felt like it had a rolling rhythm, so the chorus fell into place from there. For me, this song carries a lot more emotional weight." 

The video for the track, below, is directed by Toma's twin brother Andy Banjanin, the drummer in the band and no stranger to the blog - he's directed videos for the likes of Geowulf and Pêtr Aleksänder

The new record was produced by the band's longstanding collaborator Elliot Heinrich and mixed by Claudius Mittendorfer (Parquet CourtsTemples). Though the band are predominantly Australia born - with the brothers being joined by fellow Aussies Kane Reynolds (keys) and Blake Misipeka (bass) and Swiss/American guitarist Eric Weber, they're all now residing in London. That's where the album was written and recorded, in the band's own Pony Studios, a studio space that the band built themselves in Hackney. Can't wait to hear more!!

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Tuesday 16 June 2020

LISTEN: Harvey Causon - 'Extended Present'

I'm surprised to find that I haven't shared a Harvey Causon track on the blog in the past *but* I'm fixing that with his latest single, Extended Present. The track follows up three singles released so far this year, and it is taken from the upcoming Fourth Wall EP, which is due for release on June 26th. A singer, songwriter and producer, Harvey's work brings a broad collection of electronic influences together with piano melodies, creating tracks which are often both dark and catchy. A tender vocal pulls together the tracks, drawing you in.

Talking about the new track, Harvey explains that "Extended Present is a song about spacetime and gravity inspired by theories of theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli. The almost chimerical realisation that time is merely a construct, nonlinear and that gravity and time are interwoven into the fabric of the universe. It was really interesting to work with different people across the globe recording the strings from isolation."

Follow Harvey Causon - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 15 June 2020

LISTEN: The Ghost of Helags: ‘Chemistry’

Some new music for your eardrums - here's Chemistry from The Ghost of Helags. They're a dream-pop/electronic duo comprised of singer-songwriter Teresa Woischiski and producer John Alexander Ericson, hailing from Sweden and now living in Berlin. I'm getting some slight MGMT vibes from this tune... there's some darkness and mystery in the sound but it's simultaneously enchanting. Made in the night-time and for the night-time, Teresa explains that "the song was written in January this year on a foggy late night drive from Vienna to Prague. We didn't meet many cars and it was a very dense fog so it felt a bit like driving through outer space." The track was recorded in the hotel room in which they were staying in Prague, within days of arriving in the city. Enjoy!

Follow Ghost of Helags - Facebook | Instagram.

Sunday 14 June 2020

WATCH: Sam Beeton - 'French Algiers (Innocent Crim)'

What's that, you thought you'd made it through all of the blog anniversary posts? No such luck. Not quite ready to stop celebrating as I received a belated and very very exciting video a couple of days ago. Arriving into my inbox after my first day back at work readying our shop to re-open tomorrow, this was such a treat. Not just a live video, but an unheard track and a short film (which is hilariously brilliant) from one of my favourite musical humans, Sam Beeton. Somehow I haven't seem Sam live since late 2013, and I think this is the first new music (online, at least) from him in... years? Ahhh! Exciting!

A little back story: Sam was the support act the first time I saw The Hoosiers live. He was brilliant and we used to tweet a lot, and I signed up to his 'Record Club' through which he posted out a CD to fans with a couple of brand new tracks, usually once a month. A couple of months after the first show, I organised for him to play at my school fête as part of his house tour. A musician popping round to my house for tea and cake made me suddenly (and temporarily) cool. Over the next couple of years I saw him playing a few more shows, including my first ever gig in London and a support slot for Charlie Simpson

I managed to borrow Sam for some modelling and chatting to camera for a few different projects for my Media Studies class. We made a music documentary extract (complete with blooper video), an album cover and a few pages from a music magazine, which I suppose was my first foray into music journalism - still really proud of that work! 

Anyway, watch the video... and then head to Spotify (or wherever you listen to music) to listen to his 2015 record In The Yard, it's gorgeous. Also, I took his current Spotify photo... claim to fame!

Thanks Sam!!!

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Thursday 11 June 2020

LISTEN: Cj Pandit - 'Eventually'

Eventually is back.... eventually. Hooray!! I have long adored this Cj Pandit tune. You didn't think it was getting away without being shared on the blog, did you? Such a breezy and carefree vocal and vibe... close your eyes and you're wandering along a seafront, or something. Excited to hear that there's a debut EP lined up for later in the year, too! Talking about the track, Cj writes that "Eventually is a song about the cyclical nature of life, and the magnetism we have to certain people we meet along the way. It's a song that's rolled and changed since its inception and has grown with me as an artist and a human being. I think it's been a lesson to myself to appreciate the ebb and flow of friendships and relationships as we grow up, how we can all go and do our thing, and most of the time come back together stronger, more resilient and more human because of it. It sounds like the solstice too." 

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Wednesday 10 June 2020

cool music and... why I won't 'review' your track

I’ve been feeling a little inspired by the post I wrote recently about the origins and history of the blog for it’s anniversary. I’ve felt for a while as if I wanted to explore some wider topics in longer, rambling posts (apologies in advance for that) to create some more range in the things I write about. Sort of essay-esque, exploratory pieces on whatever topics spring to mind. Perhaps these are the ‘things’ that the blog’s name so mysteriously nods towards? Here goes for a mildly coherent ramble, anyway. 

I’ve never really explicitly talked about this here because it’s never felt like it particularly needed saying (and still doesn’t, I just had time on my hands and started writing) but as a rule, I try to avoid describing my posts as reviews. In my head, at least. Something about the term has always made me feel a little uneasy. I think that initially, as I didn’t have any musical qualifications or talents to speak of (though I have been trying to learn some ukulele and guitar in lockdown so… watch this space) I thought that I couldn’t refer to what I was writing as a review. In a sense, what right did I have to be reviewing something? Nobody had hired me to do that, I’d just set myself up a website and started to write. Who actually cared? Now though, it feels more that I simply don’t want to 'review'. Referring to a post as a recommendation or write-up sits better with me, personally. It feels positive, and for a blog which was born out of wanting to share the love I had for my favourite artists, that seems a perfect fit. 

While arranging a session video for the Youtube channel I set up recently, I was discussing the blog with Irwin Sparkes of White Tail Falls, whose record was released recently and is an instant album of the year for me - ‘write-up’ to follow, fingers crossed, and there's an interview a couple of posts ago here. Being a generally lovely human being who has always been supportive of the blog, he said some kind things about the site, and that what he loved about it was how positive it was, how I was “spreading the word on stuff that brings you joy.” It’s something that I’ve been aiming towards for the site from the start, and it means the world to have somebody else identify it. Irwin encouraged me to post some of the thoughts that I’d shared with him (so you’ve got him to thank for this ramble, though it was a lot shorter at the time) which basically concluded with the idea that the blog is a kind of online diary of the music that I love, which I let people read. 

I’m the blog’s biggest fan. I’ve been doing this for five years and I’ve surprised myself to have stuck at anything for that long. In ‘normal’ life I work full time and use the majority of my spare time to write posts, update my playlist, listen to submissions and tweet nonsense to my favourite bands. If I didn’t enjoy it, and didn’t love what I was writing about, it probably wouldn’t have lasted this long. 

A few years back when I was living and studying in Oxford and consuming just about as much live music as I possibly could while still getting a degree, I attended a music industry panel as part of Independent Venue Week. There was a really interesting discussion between people from various areas of the music industry. A music journalist, who has been running a local music magazine for longer than I’ve been alive (he knows his stuff) made a point which really registered and stayed with me. He suggested that it was important for a publication to share both positive and negative reviews to maintain credibility. 

As I’d not long moved the blog onto the new site to 'make a proper go of it' and was still finding my feet with it, I took what he was saying as gospel and thought about it a lot. Could people not trust my blog because I only ever wrote positive things? Did the fact that I was only ever nice invalidate the nice things that I was saying? Retrospectively, it’s a peculiar thing to worry about, especially when the blog was so tiny. Even now, my blog is fairly removed from the likes of his magazine and, well, it isn’t the NME. I doubt anybody else has ever sat looking at the site wishing I’d slate something and stop being so full of love and admiration. The ‘secret’ is that I can’t post about everything, and the things that I don’t enjoy don’t get to be featured… simple. Which isn't to say that if I don’t write about something, I dislike it. There’s only so much time and so many posts to go around. Less posts equals more love going into each post. It’s a balance I’m still figuring out. 

Over time, as I’ve developed the blog and figured out the sort of direction that I want to take it in, I’ve explored the idea more. For bigger publications, it makes sense that readers have expectations. You want to know what your favourite larger publications think about a new release. With multiple writers and constant new releases, there are bound to be quite a range of opinions shared. Art is subjective. Even so - and increasingly so - some negative reviews I’ve read lately have started to sit a little uncomfortably with me. For those writers, it is work and they have to say something, but it can sometimes become too personal. In an age of increased mental health awareness, sometimes it feels like they can go a little too far. 

The conclusion I’ve drawn over the years is that if you were to sneak a look at the never-ending list of post ideas in my spreadsheet, and the submissions I’ve tagged as ‘to write about’ in my inbox, you’d quickly realise that I haven’t physically got the time to write about everything I love. It’s partly why I don’t write so many album write-up posts, because they need far more time and attention to do them justice. One of the best things about the blog being entirely written by one person is that everything you read here is a snapshot into my mind, or a page of the diary. There doesn’t seem much point in me wasting my own time, and yours, by telling you about things that I don’t like. Instead, I’ll continue pouring all the love I can muster into the things that I do enjoy. 

With retail stores looking set to reopen in a few days in England, it looks as if all the extra time I’ve had for the blog will soon reduce dramatically. I won’t get too much into the huge reservations I have about returning to work at the moment, but will say that the prospect of blogging less does make me sad. While at the start of lockdown I was struggling to find any time (despite having an abundance of it) to write posts, when I threw myself into creating some kind of celebration of the blog’s birthday, it sparked something. I’ve never had so much time for the blog and it’s been a genuinely lovely thing to see the blog grow more in the last month than it has in years. In a time where connection is so precious, the blog and the people who support it have come to mean even more than before. 

In short: I love this blog, and this blog is fuelled by love. But I probably won't 'review' your track. I may say some lovely things about it, though. 

(Ramble complete.)

Tuesday 9 June 2020

WATCH: feeo - 'Yeti'

I'm really digging this track. Yeti is the latest single from Oxford producer and songwriter feeo. At 20, she's currently pursuing a dual honours degree in computing and fine art in the city. At first listen, I was blown away by the sublime vocals and I am currently being mesmerised by the live version I've just stumbled across for BBC Introducing in Oxford here. She describes that the track is "an exploration of the multiplicity of the human 'self' and its relationship with our concepts of 'other'. Using a myth based narrative, I wanted to look at the subconscious, primal self and depict the duality between this and the real world. I was particularly interested in looking at the parallels between myth and reality and the idea that myth is a projection of our deeper human selves." 

My love for the track grew on reading that the sounds throughout have been meticulously put together from field recordings, kind of Cosmo Sheldrake-esque in process. Engineered by Niko Brian and Hannah Jacobs of the local label/studio Upcycled Sounds, various sounds have been twisted together to form the track. feeo explains that "some of my favourite sounds on 'Yeti' Niko had collected when he was travelling and working in the Himalyas, a purposeful reference to the context of the cultural mythology surrounding the Yeti. These include a synth pad made from the glacial sound of ice melting and a dissonant siren made from a sample of a traditional Nepalese horn. It was important to use sounds that had a context that related to the concept itself - even if subtle, these details contribute to the narrative." 

The track's video is created by Kathryn Attrill and is thematically reflective of the subject matter of the track. About the video, feeo shares that "Kathryn was really into the idea of using salt to represent the tangible and the physical and then contrasting that with digital 3D animations to represent the intangible and metaphysical [...] the shot where I'm regurgitating the fabric was an idea taken from these photos of fake exorcisms by Mediums in the Victorian times. I really liked the idea of repurposing something that was once used to trick people into believing myth - as it plays with the idea of the Yeti being a mythical creature that we continue to pursue despite lack of proof. I find it fascinating that humans have so long sought after projections of ourselves in the unknown." 

Follow feeo - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 8 June 2020

INTERVIEW: White Tail Falls (June 2020)

The remarkably talented, often hilarious, always welcoming and all round lovely chap Irwin Sparkes just put out his debut solo album Age Of Entitlement under the moniker White Tail Falls. Having heard some of the tracks live at a sort of 'secret' set in 2018, and singles released over the past months, hearing the record in full for the first time was a joy. By joy I mean sitting in awe with tears rolling down my face... a lot of emotion and heart has been poured into the record, and it would be difficult not to be moved by it. Many listens later (you can thank me for the streaming revenue later, Irwin) and, well, I'm still in awe. This is a genuinely gorgeous record from an artist who I have long had a lot of love and respect for. 

I'd try to be cool and blasé about this but I'm delighted to be sharing an interview with Irwin (via email, distancing through the ether) about the record and the project more generally. This post feels like a highlight of my time running the blog, and I'm enormously thankful to Irwin for taking the time to share such detailed responses - now... read, listen, buy the record!!

Hello! Firstly, for those who are yet to discover the wonder of White Tail Falls (the small minority of people, that is) - who is White Tail Falls, and where does the name come from? 

My name is Irwin. I read about a location called White Tail Falls in the Pacific Northwest of America. Having never been, I liked that this place could be anything; I had no frame of reference to project upon it, so it held a mystery. It could be anything. Like a fresh start, which I liked the sound of. Rather than use my name I like the use of a disguise; it can become anything. 

Colour. Noun. Verb. What's not to like?

It’s been just over two years since I first heard about the project and saw you performing what I guess was one of the first live sets as White Tail Falls, at a tiny London show alongside The Ayoub Sisters and Alexander Wolfe. I’m intrigued to know when the project first came to be… and if you always felt that you had a solo record brewing under the surface? 

The idea for the album started forming around 2015. I'd partaken in too many co-writes where the artist had no investment in what they were saying and this exacerbated my delusion with music to the point where I was struggling to see how I'd move past that. The choice was cynicism or see if I could write something I believed in. Something reflective of the music and genres I'm into and wanted to listen to. It was terrifying. Doing this took me back to writing my first songs: where I was trying to figure out my own feelings. The songs I started writing tended to be very reflective. Bordering on grotesquely self-obsessed, you could say. 

I think I just had about three demos which I showed to Erland Cooper, who I'd written with and clicked with. Erland understood what I wanted to make, but pushed me to work at recording it myself (I was hoping he'd do it all.) He heard something in my rough demos that could be complimented with strings and a harp.

In terms of always having a solo record... I honestly didn't know what I had to say. Age and an earth-shattering amount of humility (ha) have made me question the value of my own opinion and voice. To start, I thought I'd write about what I knew: myself. So this album has an insular quality. That allowed me to check on myself and ensure I was telling the truth/saying what I really wanted to say. Some of my favourite albums (Benji by Sun Kil MoonLast of The Country Gentlemen by Josh T. PearsonCarrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens, any Elliot SmithThe Eels and Blake Mills' first two albums, to name quite a few...) draw on their own experiences but allow the listener to share in it. By virtue of being truthful and expressing an emotion that's common to all they create a communal experience. What I'm saying is, I don't want to be a navel-gazer. 

If I'd have made a solo album ten years ago I would have cared so much more about what people thought - it couldn't be anything other than contrived and a product of paranoia and fear. 

On that note! As I write these questions, it’s just one week until the debut album Age Of Entitlement (plug plug plug) “drops” figuratively and literally into our hearts, our streaming services and our postboxes. How does it feel to finally be sharing the record in full, especially in these unpredictable and crazy times?

Sat here, responding the week after release, it couldn't be crazier. I feel so sad and frustrated with what's happening in America following the murder of George Floyd. It's terrible timing to be self-promoting when there are clearly bigger issues to be addressed. Desperately searching for the positives, I hope this moment can be a catalyst for change in our western systems to address the injustices faced by black and minority people. That all sounds good but to do it I've got to take responsibility for my adding to the problem.

As for the release, it's been finished for a couple of years and the label (Physical Education Recordings) and I have been building to this moment so it's a lesson we are not in control. Regardless, I'm so glad it's out there. Getting the Rough Trade Edit was a real cherry on top of the day of release.

To me WTF makes sense as an album. I didn't set out to write singles and so releasing the three singles felt a little disjointed. I get it; that's how bands/artists introduce themselves to the world: "Hi, here's my most immediate record, can we be friends?" To me the tracks make the most impact in the context of the album. Finally having the full LP out there allows people to experience the whole journey as intended. 

Can you talk a bit about the recording process for the record, and the guests that helped out along the way… especially the foxes in your garden - they’re receiving royalties, right? On your recent live stream with Alexander Wolfe you touched on the differences in recording as part of a band in the past, and now having the responsibility of making those big decisions yourself. A learning curve?

Don't get me started on those foxes. I'm over city-living, having (humanely) gotten rid of the fox den under the "shed-io", the accompanying fleas, plague of moths and as of yesterday: rats. So gross. 

I had to learn how to record as I went. The album running order is pretty much chronological and you can hear me learning how to record as I go. Most of the vocals are recorded on a £30 USB mic. A lot of the early demos were recorded in my cousin's shed in Cornwall, or a motel travelling around America. After deciding that the demos would form the bedrock of the album it helped me accept my limitations and if there's one thing I've got a lot of... I made some rules: only three attempts at a part. Hence I couldn't play all the parts on the piano, or whatever, to you, that you hear on the album, as often, what you hear recorded is the only time I ever played it. Mistakes an all. And there's a lot of em. 

Initially I envisioned my album gleaming with professionalism and finesse, as are the other recordings I've been a part of. I realise now how much I've relied upon the better ability of my bandmates and producers and engineers. Once I accepted my newfound "raw", lo-fi approach, I can't see how it could have worked any other way. It's a fortunate occurrence, as I'm singing stories I've lived, seen lived and learned from, it makes sense that the recordings are lived in. I began to relish the bleed of the metronome through my cheap headphones on Body Weight, or how my sense of timing is a law unto itself. This, too, a reaction to the chart-filled perfection of locked-to-the-grid timing.

I knew I didn't just want to be some guy with a guitar. Maybe for fear of being exposed, but I also wanted some drama.

I wanted to use a restricted sonic palette. I'm trying to think of a less wanky way to say that. I just can't think of one... I wanted organic synth sounds so I bought a Yamaha VSS30 after hearing one in a co-write in Nashville. It's an 80s toy synth with a voice sampler that's all over the record. That way I get to augment my first instrument of a guitar with a synth that's using my voice as a texture. Restrictions in sound help give the album a cohesiveness. That said Devout is the only track that uses a phone app...

Hardest thing was making all those decisions. Erland was great for that. I'm surprised he's still talking to me! I must have driven him mad. Like a clingy eaglet that really doesn't want to leave the nest... it took time to trust my instincts. I have a new found respect for every record in existence. Even if you hate it, someone was able to choose THAT note, THAT sound, etc over all others. Mind blowing. I hope I've learned how to do that quicker. I'm writing the next album, so I'll find out pretty soon.

I got myself in fixes that required professional help. I just couldn't play bass well enough to do justice to Disintegrate or Only Getting Easier, so I roped in the amiable axeman Leighton Allen, who plays with The Hoosiers amongst others. Crucial to the sound was how we blended my rough-hewn takes with the sonorous beauty of strings and harp - Stephanie O provided violins and Lisa Canny the harp, both are solo artists in their own right and well worth your time. The Ayoub Sisters joined me on the second half of the record for violin and cello duties. 

Bernie Gardner got me out of trouble on the drum programming of Disintegrate. Alexander Wolfe wrote the string line on Age Of Entitlement and it's probably the biggest hook on the album. Paul Frith (arranges for Bear's Den, Mumford & Sons amongst others) helped me out with the strings for Fake News and Disintegrate. At live shows I always ask any string players what their favourite arrangements are, in case they choose mine over Paul's. None have yet. There's always next time...

Naomi Jensen (Rinngs), Hayley Wolfe (Tygermylk) and Alexander Wolfe lent me their voices for backing vocals. 

Nearly forgot, early on in the recording my Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer and I felt a sudden burst of needing to work with him, so I got him playing piano on Body Weight and Give It Up, Son. It was tough going. Not sure we'll work again. Creative differences. He's doing ok now. Great help courtesy of the NHS and Prostate Cancer UK.
I find that favourite albums can be like a crutch to lean on when I feel low or when the world becomes a little too much, so I’m revisiting a *lot* of firm favourites at the moment... music always helps, and yours, in its various guises, has really helped me in the past (you know that!) I guess in the sort of mirror of that, you’ve shared online about the therapeutic process that writing the record was for you during a difficult time... how it helped to put you “back together”. I really admire the honesty in those posts, putting yourself on the line both there and in the songs, and I’m interested to know how it feels to be sharing them, with their incredibly personal origins in mind? Turning full circle, it must be heartwarming to know that people might take comfort from the tracks. 

Great question. Truthfully, I struggle with being vulnerable online. Especially when I feel like I've already done that to write and record the songs. And that was always my intention: to exist in the songs I write, not in my online presence. That said, a couple of folks, who stumbled upon my online biography, told me it got to them in one way or another and so I was encouraged to really boil down what the record was about and not hide behind the metaphors in lyrics or my usual online brevity. Truth is, when I came to write these songs, I was hurting and didn't know why and felt I had no right to hurt and in writing, attempted to figure that out. That's probably the shortest answer. 

Once you're committed to releasing the record, you want it to reach as many people as possible, although, I'll offer a caveat that I know not everyone will like it. It's not for everyone. So I will open up online, occasionally and against my better judgement, from time to time, because I want the music to reach people that it needs to and so that means telling people where it/I've come from. First time I did it felt like disrobing for Playboy. On an emotional level.

Like many musicians, you’re adapting to the newly popularised ways of connecting with fans at the moment, mostly via livestreams. You can’t hear me clapping and singing along (unfortunately… or not) or see me crying in the front row, and it must be a little (a lot) strange to be playing into your phone. How are you finding that side of things? 

First couple of livestreams brought on an existential crisis. Strangely tiring. Apparently there's some science to being watched and how that being "on" takes it out of you. Can't really complain. Especially when trying to moan to Fran, aka Ajimal, who finishes a shift as an NHS doctor helping covid sufferers then does a livestream. What a guy! Though he is making the rest of us look really bad so I wish only bad things for that man and his beautiful music. 

My livestream when the album came out got me all choked up. There were people there! I felt more relaxed - actually it was relief that the album was finally out there and to see people respond to it felt like the years of work and multitude of decisions made along the way were vindicated. That was my favourite and I hope I'm settling into them. Not expecting it to be perfect or me aiming to use too much tech (cos I don't know what I'm doing) is helping.

Public service announcement: we interrupt the interview with some dates for your diary.... 

Tuesday 9th June 7.30 BST: Twitter album playback listening party. Press play & lets drink in the Age Of Entitlement together. Tell me how it makes you feel and I’ll tell you how your feelings make me feel. 

On Thursday 11th June at 7.30 BST: come back to Insta and Facebook and I’ll get acoustical and talk more. Deal?

Finally, who or what is in your headphones at the moment? Aside from the cool music and things 2020 playlist, of course, which I hear is brilliant.

That playlist is the bomb! 

Nnamdï's BRAT is blowing my mind. 
Moses Sumney's græ
Little Feat
Basia Bulat
Andrew Mayling

Buy/stream Age Of Entitlement here (check out the clear vinyl!)

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Monday 1 June 2020

LISTEN: Amaroun - 'Rise'

As somebody creating and sharing content online, I've felt a little reluctant to post and to draw any attention away from causes and accounts which deserve it far more at the moment. On the other hand, it feels a little naive to assume that my relatively small blog going quiet would make that much of a difference, or that a small moment of quiet would suffice - racism is not a new issue, and not one that is going away quickly. While I don't want to pull attention away from more important matters, new music regularly provides a much needed distraction for me, especially from the other virus going around at the moment, so I still want to spread some new music and love here. 

While this blog is just me, I'm happy to see many of the artists I support, PR companies that I communicate with, favourite labels and the like pledging support to learn more and to do better, both now and going forward, whether via the 'Music Industry Blackout' on Tuesday or in other ways. We're all learning to do more together. 

There is more that I could say but there are other voices you should most definitely be paying attention to far more than mine at the moment, and I wanted to just share an incredibly poignant new track with you.

Peckham based Amaroun has been sharing a song a month this year - I absolutely adored Talk and put it straight on the playlist, but didn't get around to sharing it on the blog - her new single Rise feels particularly relevant right now. The track tells the story of a woman battling an internal struggle between doubt and self hate, whose inner voice tells her to rise. She explains that "when you fall or get knocked down, do not stay down, do not let them hold you down, rise up, rise up against oppression. If you are marginalised, if you are queer, it's hard out there! Tell your story proudly, see yourself, your change and your journey as  beautiful and as growth. You are an ever changing authentic being so just be exactly that." 

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