Wednesday 30 September 2020

LISTEN: Tempesst - 'Must Be A Dream'

“With this LP, we’ve created something we’re really proud of that truly cements our identity as a group, at least.” 

As the days (and nights, and, well, all of the time) start to suddenly get chilly, a record which appears audibly sun-drenched is exactly what we need, right? Luckily, London via Australia quintet Tempesst are on the case with their debut album Must Be A Dream, released today via their own label Pony Recordings. Produced by the band’s longstanding collaborator Elliot Heinrich and mixed by Claudius Mittendorfer, the record explores themes of ‘identity, purpose, ageing, love, loss, substance abuse, the death of loved ones and remembering the beauty beneath it all.’ 

For me, it’s a soundtrack for sunnier days. Years in the making and long anticipated but more than worth the wait. The band describe the process - “over the past four years we’ve been carving our own path, finding our feet and forming our identity. It was pretty obvious that a traditional path in the music industry couldn’t provide us with the autonomy and potential for longevity that has always been important to us.” 

“So, we’ve built our own studio, created our own record label, filmed our own videos and set ourselves up to keep doing this for as long as we want to. The luxury of having our own space has allowed us to evolve creatively and to experiment in ways we haven’t been able to before. Musically, there is an element of surprise and it never gets too comfortable, as if in a dream.” 

The quintet started life more than a decade ago in the small Queensland city of Noosa, on the Australian coast, with twin brothers Toma and Andy Banjanin. Coming from a musical family and members of the Pentecostal community, their first steps into the world of music were as members of their church band at fourteen. Performing four times a week for four years, Toma recounts that they “picked up a lot from that whole experience, including working with older guys who taught us music theory and important things about playing as a band.” It is also where they met Kane Reynolds and Blake Mispieka, now the keyboard and bass player for Tempesst

Leaving home to explore a wider world of music, the brothers took to the UK, before leaving for Brooklyn, NY - the heart of the indie movement in the 2000s, figure-headed by the likes of The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Vampire Weekend. A furiously creative and community driven DIY scene, through which the brothers expanded their musical interests, discovering as much as they could. 

With the expiration of the visas bringing them back to the UK (Hackney, more specifically) the band was formed, with Kane, Blake and Eric Weber completing the line-up. Andy explains the band’s desire to create their own studio space in which to record and practice - “we had a really kind of basic production studio that Toma kept at his house, and at the time we actually were looking for rehearsal space because in London - one of the biggest challenges that you have is that you can’t really make noise. So we came across this warehouse and it was way bigger than anything we were looking for but it had us wondering what it would actually cost to set up a studio. So we decided on this space thinking that into the future, we can use this to enable our creativity.” 

Desiring to carve their own paths in the industry, they set up Pony Recordings while piecing together their studio. Without the time or financial pressures that a regular studio set-up would bring, owning their own made the process far more free, creatively. Andy explains - “we’re quite hands on anyway, so to record in our own studio just makes sense [...] with the studio, we have the time to work on all these key things that are quintessential to our sound but also experiment and add an element of surprise, whether that is a weird synth solo or a key change. It’s those little departures that keep the listener on their toes.” 

The record is recognisably Tempesst, taking elements that I’ve come to love from the tracks of their two EPs, but it is filled with exciting new sounds and influences. Must admit that I was not expecting a saxophone solo but that I am completely here for it. Stepping slightly sideways from psychedelica in parts, the record incorporates various sonic influences, with Phil Spector and “everyone from Scott Walker to Jeff Buckley to Nick Cave” proving influential in the record’s creation, while the vocal arrangements “were definitely inspired by Eagles and the first Crosby Stills & Nash LP, as well as the narrative storytelling of Joni Mitchell and Blue.”  

The album manages to keep you on your toes, not falling at the hurdle of being a bit same-y. Currently, as I write this at 1am on day of release, a favourite track is Age of the Bored but I’m genuinely loving the entire record. I feel like I write that about every record that I ‘review’ - but I don’t review albums, I recommend them, so… you know. This one passed the test. It’s superb. Now I just need to while away the time before we can see them performing it live!

Follow Tempesst - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday 29 September 2020

WATCH: Dawes - 'Didn't Fix Me'

My fave Americans Dawes are releasing their seventh (!!!) studio album Good Luck With Whatever this Friday. They've been a favourite band of mine for a while now, since I caught them opening for Mumford & Sons in 2012, and at many shows of their own since, and a new album is always a cause for celebration - especially in such a strange year. It's hard to talk about their music without nodding towards their incredible lyricism - frontman Taylor is for me one of the greatest songwriters of our generation. Latest single Didn't Fix Me is a song focusing on mental health and personal survival, where that lyricism is at its best. I love them and absolutely can't wait for the album on Friday!! 

Frontman Taylor Goldsmith says of the track "it feels very natural to outsource our problems. Telling ourselves 'once I have this job, this partner, this amount of money, etc, I will be happy' is really effective and convenient. Unfortunately no one's life actually works that way. I'm sure we all know plenty of miserable people who seem to have it all and plenty of blissful people that seem to have close to nothing. This song is about the efforts one makes to find some easy fix, unable to recognise that it will never work that way, that we are in the end our own responsibility."

Good Luck With Whatever is due 2nd October - pre-order/pre-save here.

Follow Dawes - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 28 September 2020

WATCH: Mumble Tide - 'Love Thing'

Let me introduce you to Mumble Tide. They're a Bristol duo comprised of Gina Leonard and Ryan Rogers. Following recent single Bad Match, they've just shared Love Thing, the title track of their forthcoming debut EP, which is due out on 13th November via Nothing Fancy

On the track, one of first written for the project, Gina explains that "we had tried a bunch of different versions of it in the studio when we were still figuring out our sound but nothing was really sticking. In the end we took it back to my folks' in Cambridge and spent a week working on it and everything clicked into place."

Having both worked on other projects, Mumble Tide came from a desire for some more creative freedom. Gina explains that it was born "during a tricky time where I was feeling quite restricted in other projects. Lots of what I was writing was getting rejected for being say... too sweet, or too silly, or too simple. It became increasingly frustrating binning songs and to find that Ryan was up for embracing a no rules, no questions approach turned out to be just the ticket. Creating Mumble Tide allowed me the chance to tip everything upside down and shake it. I was reminded of why I love writing songs." 

Working from a home studio (in Bristol originally, and in Cambridge during lockdown) Gina starts the process by bringing a song to the room, while Ryan focuses on the production side. On some creative insecurities, he shares that "at first when Gina and I decided to do some tracks together, I was very focused on just capturing her songs without over-complicating them. But the more we experimented and collaborated, the more we wanted to embrace the DIY production world we were creating together. We stopped trying to be technical or serious and stopped worrying about not knowing the right way to do things. We both played everything how we wanted, recorded it how we wanted and mixed it how we wanted. Just fun and easy and messy." 

It sounds as if the past few months have been a creative and lucrative time for the duo, so I'd expect that lots of new music is on the way - for now, the Love Thing EP is due 13th November and you can pre-order it here.

Follow Mumble Tide - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 24 September 2020

WATCH: Premium Leisure - 'Remedies'

I often preface a post like this, but I am really excited to share this track. Seriously. It's a year since I was last in Oxford, on a short solo trip before starting my new job, but I still feel such an affinity to the local music scene there. This project is about as close as Oxford is getting to a supergroup... the solo project/brainchild of Chris Barker, a local songwriter/producer (and guitarist for Willie J Healey) - Premium Leisure. The project sees contributions from Ash Cooke of blog fave BE GOOD, Casper Miles and Jack Kendrew of PETSEMATARY, and WJH bandmates Harry Deacon and Mike Monaghan, as well as Willie himself. 

Remedies is the first single taken from an upcoming EP due for release in early 2021, a feel good call to "do whatever makes you feel good" amidst the fog of pressures that society, and ourselves, put upon us. On the track, Chris notes "Remedies considers a more laid back and outward looking mindset - to do what makes you, and people around you, feel good." 

The track is produced by Oli Barton-Wood, the first release on his new South London label plum cuts. Having worked with Porridge RadioMellahALASKALASKAObongjayar and Nilüfer Yanya in his Little Legs studio in Peckham, Oli decided to set up a label to share some of the music that he'd been working on. He explains "I was sitting on all this great music that I'd been working on with friends, and realised it might not find its way out there unless I did something about it. A few artists seemed reluctant to do the self-release thing because it can be daunting to take it all on, so I just thought 'screw it, why don't I just help them do it.' There's a really exciting little community of musicians and artists that come through the studio, so it feels really natural to pull them together for the label." 

Grab the new single digitally on the plum cuts Bandcamp page here.

Follow Premium Leisure - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 23 September 2020

WATCH: Christof van der Ven - 'You Left It Too Long (Rework)'

Having just celebrated the first birthday of his second album You Were The Place (they grow up SO FAST), the all round lovely (and almost frustratingly talented) human being Christof van der Ven is back with new music - sort of. The Reworks EP is due on 30th October, featuring piano versions of four tracks from his catalogue made with friends, including Jed Parsons and Camilla Staveley-Taylor of The Staves, earlier in the year. The first to be released is You Left It Too Long, one of the first Christof tunes that I discovered (and loved) a few years back, and probably still one of my favourites. On this one, Christof's pal and Bear's Den bandmate Marcus Hamblett is working some sweet sweet magic on the modular synths. The video, below, is a rework of the original video for the track, with 8mm film footage shot on a holiday in Ireland and Scotland played in reverse. Clever, I like it.

On the origins of the EP, Christof says... "like many others, I soon realised that I had much more free time than usual and I started to look back at songs that I had written at different points in my life and tried to rework them to make them sound more like where I'm at now. I wrote the parts for these tracks on MIDI, but since I can't really play the piano and wasn't able to get someone to record them properly at the time, I decided to use a good piano plugin instead. It's cheating but piano plugins these days just sound good and it was a great alternative when people were limited in their movements! When some of the restrictions were lifted my good friend and sound engineer Scott Humphries came over to my flat where we finished recorded and mixing the EP." 

Follow Christof van der Ven - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday 22 September 2020

WATCH: Ferris & Sylvester - 'Knock You Down' (Iive)

Loving this. There's nothing quite like live music, right? Finding myself missing gigs on a daily basis currently. It's been SO long. A live video capturing that live energy is a treat at the moment, that's for sure. Taken from their upcoming I Should Be On A Train EP, the ever-wonderful duo Ferris & Sylvester released single Knock You Down recently. They've just shared a live video for it, the second in a series recorded during lockdown at Streatham Space Project in London. They're due to headline at the venue as part of the Streatham Festival - just as soon as it can be rescheduled. Despite filming in an empty venue, the video captures the energy of a F&S live show perfectly. For now, this will just about quench that thirst for a live show. 

Pre-order the I Should Be On A Train EP here.

Ferris & Sylvester Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 21 September 2020

EP NEWS: Patricia Lalor - 'Covers EP1'

It's a very good week for covers fans... Marika Hackman just announced her Covers album (due 13th Nov) and the ever glorious Patricia Lalor has announced Covers EP1. At 14, Patricia has been releasing music via Youtube since she was just 11, with over 150k subscribers there. Due on 2nd October, the EP features covers of tracks by Radiohead, Alex G and Mac DeMarco, as well as I Don't Know You by The Marías, which you can listen to below. This cover in particular was released to Patricia's channel back in March, and has racked up the small total of over 680K views...! If you enjoy this, there are two EPs from this year - I loved Do It Again - listen here.

Follow Patricia Lalor - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 17 September 2020

LISTEN: Cosmo Sheldrake - 'Wake Up Calls'

How about something a little different? It's no secret here that I'm an enormous fan of Cosmo Sheldrake and his music. Since my first real introduction to his work when he opened for Johnny Flynn at the Roundhouse in 2017 - consider me blown away and the Pelicans We EP hastily bought at the merch stand - I've been pretty much constantly mesmerised by all that he has released into the world. 

A London-based multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer and producer, Cosmo is also, put simply, a musical wizard and genius. His music is unique, pulling together sounds from the world around us, twisting them into magically quirky tracks. His work sits beyond the realms of genre. 

It probably isn't for everyone (but what music is?) - in fact, one of my favourite Cosmo related stories is about a time that I played his debut album The Much Much How How & I at the HMV store that I worked in. It sounded frankly glorious across the speaker system, but a customer sought out a colleague and asked who had chosen to play it - you could say that they weren't a fan. Fear not though... my love for the record more than made up for it. 

I still listen to that record frequently, most recently on a commute to work, while reading a chapter from Cosmo's brother Merlin Sheldrake's new book Entangled Life (like the Sheldrake family fangirl that I am rapidly, and unashamedly, becoming.) The book is about the genuinely fascinating hidden world of fungi. In a crazy and genuinely quite mind-boggling turn of events - the pair released a piece of music to coincide with the book's publication, on which you can hear mushrooms devouring a copy of the book. 

That is a slight indication of just what you're getting yourself into when you choose to listen to Cosmo's music. It's nothing if not educational - just wait until you hear about tardigrades. His latest album, Wake Up Calls, is set to be released tomorrow. The record's thirteen tracks feature a gloriously rich ensemble of birds and their songs. The record is intended both to celebrate the sounds of those birds around us, and to simultaneously highlight the peril that they face. About the record, Cosmo says: "I hope that this music may serve as a wake up call: to help us become more aware of the glorious polyphonic soundworlds that surround us before many of these voices become extinct in Britain, and to remind us not to take any of these creatures and the music that they make for granted."

Created across a nine-year period, the record has evolved through many different stages. Some pieces started life as presents for Cosmo's friends and family, intended as a peaceful alternative to traditionally jarring alarm clock sounds. A couple of the tracks were written for the People's March for Wildlife in September 2019, with the title of the album coming as a suggestion from acclaimed nature writer Robert Macfarlane in a conversation in the run up to the march. Nightjar, similarly, was written for an Extinction Rebellion protest in London. 

Across the record, we hear the song of birds found on the red and amber lists of endangered British birds (with the exception of the Robin and Blackbird, which aren't endangered... yet.) The full cast is (deep breath): Robin, Blackbird, Willow Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Ring Ouzel, Mistle Thrush, Nightingale, Dunnock, Sheldrake (Cosmo remarks "I couldn't help but include a recording of a Sheldrake, the bird that my family is named after, which is also on the amber list"), Nightjar, Short Eared Owl, Long Eared Owl, Little Owl, Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Skylark, Teal & Bittern. The album sees us travel through a day in the life of these wonderful creatures - from night with the Nightjar and Nightingale as the record opens, through dawn and day time, round to evening chorus, and drawing to a close with night again. 

It's difficult to pull a record like this apart, to highlight a favourite song or two. The project is best listened to in its entirety, given your full attention. I adore it from start to finish, and I'm frankly over the moon to have been allowed to listen to it early. I love Cosmo's work but there is something particularly important and pressing about this. I'm desperate for the first listen on my record player, to take some time out of my day to let the sounds of these birds fill my room and my ears. 

Finally - a couple more things to love about this record. The vinyl is made from recycled materials at one of the most environmentally friendly pressing plants in Europe, Deepgrooves. You can grab a copy from Bandcamp or Music Glue and pre-save the album digitally here. Some of the proceeds from the record will go to a number of of conservation charities which work with endangered birds, including Wild Justice, Birdlife International and The British Trust for Ornithology. 

Follow Cosmo Sheldrake online - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

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Wednesday 16 September 2020

EP NEWS: Fickle Friends - ‘Weird Years (Season 1)’

Fickle Friends are back... their new EP Weird Years (Season 1) is set for release on 15th January via Cooking Vinyl, and lead single What A Time is below. With two singles - Eats Me Up and Pretty Great - already under their belts earlier in the year, the band had been working towards a 2020 release for their second album. Then... lockdown. Very much a band who thrive from the buzz of live shows, it didn't feel right to release a full record at the moment, so they're releasing this EP, with more instalments following next year too. 

Frontwoman Natti Shiner says of the EP that it is "the weird story of the last three years of our lives. It covers everything from waking up and feeling horrendous, to being stuck in lockdown and feeling anxious, to being heartbroken. There's a lot in there that I think people will relate to." 

Talking about the new track, she goes on to explain that it is "an anthem for escapism. With everything that has happened over the last six months, everyone has needed a little time away from the outside world. It's felt like the world is going to shit, but you need to take some time out for yourself. Shut your bedroom door, turn your music up and dance around the room." 

Following on from their last self-produced music video, the video (above) is filmed and edited by the band themselves - skills nurtured during lockdown. They headed into Brighton after dark, capturing the feeling of heading into the outdoors for the first time in months. 

Pre-save/add the EP here - white vinyl available on their store here.

Follow Fickle Friends - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday 15 September 2020

WATCH: Novo Amor - 'If We're Being Honest'

I was reminded yesterday (by the trusty Instagram archive) that it was two years since I first posted about Novo Amor, with a slightly gushy love letter to the tunes Utican and Birthplace, and a bit of marvelling at Ali's sustainable practices as an artist. With his debut album on the way, I was pretty sure that I was on the way to falling for his music. You could say that was an accurate prediction. 

I'm over the moon about the upcoming release of his second record Cannot Be, Whatsoever on 5th November (pre-order it here.) Recent single If We're Being Honest is the fourth track to be lifted from the album and as ever, it's stunning. My words from that first post continue to ring true about this latest offering - "his falsetto vocals are striking, accompanied by music that is vast, atmospheric and often cinematic in its nature, making use of some really exciting instrumentation." 

As an aside: two years on, and the vast majority of artists are yet to catch up with Ali and his team when it comes to sustainability. Excited to receive the new Cosmo Sheldrake LP some time this week - made from recycled materials as Ali's are. There's still so much that the music industry - particularly in touring, when that happens again, can do. Ditching single use plastic bottles, leaving behind excessive riders, sustainable merch, recycled packaging for CDs and vinyl - the opportunities are somewhat endless!

Grab tickets for the upcoming Novo Amor tour here.

Follow Novo Amor - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 14 September 2020

LISTEN: The Staves - 'Trying'

Something rather lovely to start the week off... The Staves are back, following up recently single Nazareth with Trying. Self-produced by the trio of sisters - Jessica, Camilla and Emily Staveley-Taylor - it's a complete treat. They're the absolute queens of three-part vocal harmonies. Sublime as ever. It's five years since their last studio record (If I Was, which you should certainly check out if you haven't yet) and I am so very ready for the imminent (I hope) announcement of their third studio album. I love these ladies. 

Camilla Staveley-Taylor says about the track "I wanted to write a song about the state of things in the world and how broken our ability to communicate with each other had become as a society, but it became impossible as I was writing to separate my personal life from the broader message. I was living in America away from my family in a relationship that was failing. The state of America (and in Britain for that matter) and the state of my relationship seemed to become one and the same. The song became far more about my own situation. 

I feel like trying is what we spend most of our lives doing really. Just trying our best. Trying to be better, to make things work. This was definitely a time where I was nearly tried out."

Follow The Staves - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Friday 11 September 2020

LISTEN: Me, Charles - 'Like and Share'

"all the world becomes too much and I dip my head under..."  

The reality of running this little blog is using my one day off in a stretch of eight days to listen to a bunch of submissions and write posts. Days off... what are those? So it's almost 11pm and I'm trying to write a post which has been circling the top of my to-do list for a couple of weeks. I hope that Me, Charles won't mind me saying that I was entirely flattered upon finding his email in my inbox. 

Within it, he said some of the kindest things that anybody ever has about the blog. Talking about how he had first been introduced to the blog and how it influenced him...  I was kind of blown away, to the extent that I thought it might somehow be spam. Turns out that he is in fact a genuine human being and is just really lovely (and loves the blog...!) 

Me, Charles is a singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer from South East London, and he's just released his debut LP Like and Share. Eight years in the making, the record reflects his interests in genres such as alt-rock, bossa nova, jazz and experimental electronica, as well as influences like James Blake and Jeff Buckley. This record, however, isn't easily categorised. It's an exploration, musically and personally. An album which is incredibly intricate. At times delivering a huge soundscape, and then piercingly intricate. This record demands your attention for 36 minutes, if you want to get the most out of it. 

The record is made all the more sweet when you read Me, Charles story. Some of the songs started to spring into being when he was just 17. The year prior, he lost his mother to breast cancer. As it does to so many people, music became an invaluable outlet for him. The tracks, in their depth, carry an emotional weight, and allow for reflection. Having just emerged from seven years of addiction, we find Me, Charles really beginning to realise his potential with this release. 

Take a listen to Like and Share on Bandcamp and Spotify.

Follow Me, Charles - Facebook | Instagram.

Thursday 10 September 2020

LISTEN: MF Tomlinson - 'Everything is Cancelled'

It was a delight to find this in my inbox last week - MF Tomlinson is back with the soundtrack for our times - Everything is Cancelled. The lyrically clever and amusing track pokes some much needed fun at the situation, and is *very* relatable. The first track from the (equally-poignantly-named) EP Strange Time, due on 2nd October, this is the first of a string of releases that he is sharing on Bandcamp Fridays, from which the proceeds will be donated to people and industries affected by the virus. For now, funds are going to London's superb independent music venue The Lexington - download the track here.

Over to MF Tomlinson... "I was unable to let go of the pace of life before the lockdown and threw myself into frantically documenting the situation [...] Writing songs gives me purpose - my other therapy at that point was learning the saxophone. I did manage to do a bit of saxophone practice but that was quickly (and justifiably) veto’d. I decided I was going to go folk - that just made sense. [...] This song is full of jokes, trying to put on a brave face in a time where things seemed scary. [...] It’s also touching on the hope that as a society we might learn from the mistakes that contributed to this crisis and try do things differently, which at this stage isn’t looking likely."

On the process behind the track, he explains that "I reached out to all of my collaborators, we would normally work on stuff together in the studio. Instead I sent the skeleton of a song out and a rough demo of the part, they as usual sent back pure gold. Alistair Welsh did the amazing horn arrangement you hear on this song - he’s on the trombone, and that’s Ben Manning on the double bass. I love that this is a big band in isolation - the tuba, clarinet etc all in separate people's bedrooms! Arie van der Poel took these bedroom recordings and mixed and moulded them into something amazing. He flew out to New Zealand just before the lockdown so we’d talk nights and early mornings. He’s amazing and his contribution here can’t be understated. I’m especially grateful to artist Chiara Baima Poma who sent this beautiful painting from her home in the Canary Islands. I strongly feel that music is better when it’s made together. One of the best things about the project was making contact with all the contributors, catching up on how they were. When I was stuck at home and after returning to work, it got me through the stress and made me feel connected."

Follow MF Tomlinson - Facebook | Instagram.

Wednesday 9 September 2020

WATCH: Matilda Mann - 'Happy Anniversary, Stranger'

Time for some new Matilda Mann, and by far the cutest thing that I found in my submissions inbox last week. Happy Anniversary, Stranger is the third track to be taken from Matilda's upcoming Because I Wanted You To Know EP, due for release later in the year. Co-written by Matt Maltese, it's a really sweet track about fancying for a stranger who you see regularly, but never talk to - in this case, on a bus. While you're here - there's a new video of Matilda performing Robbed by the Thames here. Lovely!

About the track, Matilda said "I used to get the bus to school every day and there would always be this guy who I'd see every morning. We never spoke but I always thought it such a cute love story - to have a crush on someone from a distance and eventually getting the courage to say hello. The 266 to Hammersmith was the bus I got to school every day, so I've always wanted to work it into a song."

Follow Matilda Mann - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday 8 September 2020

WATCH: Francis of Delirium - 'Equality Song'

"Sometimes it feels like a fact of life, you're born, get your period and you'll get raped some time." 

As well as being a brilliant song - this is SO important. Luxembourg-based Canadian-American duo Francis of Delirium, who released their first track back in January and their debut EP in June, are back with a rightfully angsty track, fighting against systems which offer little help to victims of abuse. To see 19 year-old Jana Bahrich singing this track fills me with a whole wave of emotions, good and bad - it's a really powerful song. Funded by the Ministry of Equality in Luxembourg to celebrate 100 years of women's voting, the track is on Bandcamp a week before streaming platforms, with proceeds from downloads going to Femmes en Detresse, a domestic abuse charity in Luxembourg which provides protection and therapy.

About the track, Jana explains that it "was written mainly out of anger, at how absurd it is that sexual abuse is so normalised, and the systems that are in place just essentially shit on anyone that comes forward with their story. The Brett Kavanaugh hearings had just happened and then every week it felt like another story came out and it seemed like no-one cared. You grow up learning to be sceptical of other people and spend a lot of time in fear of the people around you. So, the song is meant to be lashing out about how broken structures and systems are."

Follow Francis of Delirium - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 7 September 2020

LISTEN: Laura Fell - 'Bone of Contention'

A little belatedly, I'm really chuffed to share this gorgeous debut. Friend of the blog Paddy from Stay Loose has just launched the first artist on his blog-turned-label, Balloon Machine Records. Not one to do things by halves, the track has already been picked up and recommended all over the place - and now it's here...! 

I love the story behind this. After a decade of writing poetry, Laura Fell, a psychotherapist by day, started to play music at 28, when her poems began to feel more like songs. She has just announced the release of her debut LP Safe from Me, due in November, and released first track Bone of Contention. Dedicated to fully realising her plans for the record, she held down three jobs to fund it, determined to push the record beyond its acoustic guitar origins. A gang of classically trained musicians were enlisted, with their flugelhorns, cellos, saxophones and double bass, and can be heard, beautifully, on this first track.

On the track, Laura explains that it is "an exercise in anger, really. I've always struggled to feel anger without also feeling out of control, and, therefore, disempowered. This song is about allowing myself to sit with my anger, and ending up finding clarity and power within it." 

Safe from Me is due for release on 20th November - order digitally/CD via Laura's Bandcamp here.

Follow Laura Fell - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 2 September 2020

R&L... where are all the women?

So…. that Reading and Leeds line-up announcement. You’ve all seen it by now, I’ll presume. After having to cancel their 2020 festival, they’re planning to be back, bigger than ever, in 2021. Two main stages. Double the headliners. Six headline slots, unprecedented. You guessed it: all of them filled by men. Joy.

Let’s just say that it isn’t surprising in the least. In fact, I’d be shocked if R&L had come out with a truly diverse line-up. But the best kind of shocked. Breaking news: women exist AND they make good music, sometimes. It seems a difficult concept for some to grasp. There are people defending the organisers for celebrating this line-up as if it is somehow groundbreaking… are they serious? Currently, it feels as if R&L are more likely to announce that a bunch of aliens are headlining their festival, or to put on a TV talent show to find the next (male) headliners, than they are to acknowledge that women make music.

the 2021 R&L line up sans men, courtesy of @lucy_mccourt on Twitter

Scrolling through past line-ups, the problem is strikingly clear. A whole six years ago, the last female-identifying act in the headline slot, with Hayley Williams fronting Paramore. Even then, it was a co-headline slot (only the second time this had happened in the festival’s history) alongside Queens of the Stone Age (who, it’s worth mentioning, are one of the six to just be announced). Including the upcoming line-up, and this year’s cancelled efforts, there have been 27 headliners since Paramore. All of them male. How can anybody truly justify that? Rewind further and you find the sublime Arcade Fire, fronted by husband and wife Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, headlining in 2010. Before then, you’d need to delve into the 90s to find any more women in the top slots. You get the picture (and it is chocked full of men.) 

I’ve never been to Reading or Leeds festivals, but as a woman writing about music and live shows on the internet, I feel as qualified as anybody to have a say on this matter. I’m curious about the organisers of the festival, those responsible for this line-up and those that have come before it. The headliners themselves, their management and booking agents. How is it that nobody involved at any stage in curating this line-up has raised a problem with the fact that it is all men, once again? And if they have, why is nobody doing anything? 

To be clear: I know that this isn’t just an issue with Reading & Leeds. All-male gig line-ups, concert series without a single female headliner to be seen, these are far too familiar scenarios across the industry. Given years to address the issue, and still seemingly ignoring it, you can’t help but presume that the likes of R&L simply don’t care. While discussing this post with a friend, she raised the point that it just doesn’t give the impression that women are welcome. How would that make you feel when attending the festival? Similarly, I can’t help but think of young artists growing up with dreams of making it in the industry. From the start, it’s made absolutely clear to them that no matter how good they are, no matter their chart positions, album sales, the tours they do, their number of fans - they’re unlikely to ever get the opportunity to headline R&L. Why? Because they’re not men. In 2020, this is frankly absurd. 

Since the announcement, I’ve tried to stick to the likeminded people on my timeline who realise that there is most definitely a problem with it. It seems that on the whole, people are affronted, and rightly so. It’s easy to stray into comment sections however, and to become bewildered by some of the people defending the line-up. As if these things even need saying, let’s attempt to debunk some of their ridiculous arguments… 

A few people are intent on yelling about ticket sales. True, after the festival was cancelled this year due to the virus, they’ll need to ensure that they maximise ticket sales next year to ensure the longevity of the festival. Personally, I’m not sure that all but telling women they aren’t welcome is the best way of going about that. The notion that a female headliner wouldn’t attract as many ticket sales is silly - gender in itself is not a selling point. With six headliners, it hardly seems that having just one of those (not enough, but it would be a start) be a female headliner would make so much of a difference. With five Grammys, an album which topped the charts in the UK and was the best-performing album of last year in the US, I think that Billie Eilish, for one, could probably pull quite the crowd. Lana Del Rey? Lorde? Taylor SwiftDua Lipa? “But it’s a rock festival!!!!” I hear from the folks of Twitter - perhaps, traditionally, the festival has leant towards rock, alternative, indie and punk, but try telling that to next year’s headliners Stormzy and Disclosure, or further down the line-up, Lewis Capaldi. This post from self-proclaimed ‘festival enthusiast’ Vic on Instagram, which is doing the rounds at the moment, shows how a R&L poster might look, filled with exciting female artists. Big and small. 

“But, there aren’t any headline-worthy female acts!!!” May I refer you to the above? This opinion shows blatant ignorance. There are plenty. There is a LOT of brilliant music being made by women, across many genres, in many countries, and many of those would deliver a superb headline slot. 

"But…. there ARE women on the line-up!” Ah, correct. You’ve got me there. Case closed. They’re nestled right at the bottom, looking like they’ve been booked as an after thought? Some women to put onto the small stages to keep everybody happy? Job done. (Not.) 

In an abrupt change to the booking/scheduling… to me! Hey - it’s my blog, I’ll talk about me if I want to. For years, I’ve listened to far more music by male artists than not. Without any particular intentions. As a kid, I was into pop music - boy bands, the charts. My tastes changed as I grew older and started to get more interested in music in general, discovering bands like Muse and Biffy Clyro, who I still love today. At school, I started to listen to alternative, indie and folk music via recommendations from friends, and began to find a lot of new music by watching MTV Rocks on TV as much as I could. Much like R&L, two of the only bands I can remember from the channel in those days which weren’t all male, are Paramore and Arcade Fire

It wasn’t really something that I questioned at the time, or felt that I had to do anything about. I was just starting to be passionate about music and what did it matter who was making it? Most of my favourite artists at the time were male, but that was just how it was. I wasn’t really aware of the fact that I just wasn’t being introduced to much music being made by women. 

I first started this blog on Tumblr in late 2012, as a way of writing about new work from my favourite musicians. Before the days of receiving submissions via email, that meant that I was covering the artists I already knew and loved. So: men, mostly. Still, I didn’t question it. When I thought about it, I felt that it just reflected the genres that I listened to, there just were fewer women making music in them. Nothing that I could affect. 

When I started to pay attention to people (rightly) questioning the gender split across festival line-ups and the posters with male artists taken off of them (leaving a few tiny artist names) started to surface, I began to be a bit more conscious of what I was putting out on the blog. The more I thought about it, and the bigger the blog seemed to be getting (actual people seemed to be reading it, not just friends I’d dragged along for the ride) I realised that it wasn’t enough for me to just tell myself that this was an issue in the wider industry, that there just weren’t as many women making music in the genres that I listened to. There are: if you have to work a little harder to find them, then it’ll be all the more rewarding when you do. In 2018 and 2019, my favourite records were by Rae Morris and Maggie Rogers. I fell entirely in love with both records and in a way, it was refreshing - the first time that I’d felt quite so much admiration for records that weren’t made by men. 

Behind the scenes, as it were, I’ve been trying to address the gender balance on the blog and in the playlists that I curate for it for the past couple of years. I want to deliver varied and diverse content to the online following that I am very proud to have built up. It has always been my intention to write about music that I love, and it just so happens that a lot more of that is by women now. The blog is all the better for it. In all honesty, it feels like I have spent more time worrying about the gender split on my relatively tiny blog than the organisers of these huge events have in recent years. 

A rough count of my posts from this year so far shows them to be at about 45% about music from female soloists, bands fronted by women, and bands with female members. Compared to 38% (give or take) in 2019, and 23% in 2018. On the main yearly playlist, it’s just a little behind at about 40% for 2020 so far - compared to 34% in 2019 and 24% in 2018. I’m really proud of these figures, the improvement and the efforts I’ve taken to get there. Looking at research by Vick Bain in her report Counting the Music Industry, these percentages are, in a way, above average. In a study of over 300 music publishers and record labels in the UK, her research revealed that “just over 14% of writers currently signed to publishers and just under 20% of acts signed to labels are female […] indicative of widespread discrimination against women in the music industry.” I’m striving towards a 50/50 split. It may be a little harder work, as a majority of the music I am sent in press releases is by male artists, but there is SO much wonderful music being created by women, if you just take the time to find it.

So, to draw this to a close… I think that it is basically idiocy for those involved in the R&L line-up, and others like it, to go ahead with this in 2021. Are the women on those teams being overpowered by their male counterparts, do they simply not care, or do they not exist? It’s clear that everybody has a role to play in improving the situation. As music fans, taking your ticket buying power to those festivals which are striving for a better balance is key. 

The PRS ‘Keychange’ initiative, for instance, is a campaign encouraging festivals to have a 50/50 gender split among their performers by 2022, which more than 150 events worldwide pledged to do. Founder Vanessa Reed said in 2019 that “people are feeling frustrated by festival lineups being male-dominated. Until Keychange there was no big debate about this or positive action.” She posited that the next step was to look more deeply at the industry, saying “there are still so many male promoters and bookers and established networks that have traditionally booked more men than women. All those things mean it’s harder to instigate change. But I have been inspired by the fact that lots of younger men in the music industry are as keen as women are for programmes to be more balanced. So I hope to some degree it’s about generational change.” 

Well, here’s to change. And not a moment too soon! And while these might not all be quite ready to headline a festival as big as Reading & Leeds, here are some of my favourite female artists (and bands with female members) who I’ll continue to give a platform to, as best I can: MarthaGunn, Lucy Rose, Dizzy, Liz Lawrence, Arlo Parks, Siv Jakobsen, The Big Moon, Dream Wife, Marika Hackman, Superorganism, Sophie Jamieson, Lucy Leave, Hailaker, Gia Margaret, Lianne La Havas, Fenne Lily, Billie Marten, The Staves, Winnie Raeder, Annabel Allum, Brooke Bentham… I could go on, and on, and on.

WATCH: MarthaGunn - 'Say When'

The final piece of the puzzle is here. Say When is the fourth and final track from the incredible Caught Up & Confused EP from MarthaGunn, released on Friday. I ADORE this band. They've given me years of joy across so many brilliant singles and I'm over the moon for them to be working on their debut album. For now, an EP is more than welcome and it is superb. Lyrically and sonically, this is such a treat. You can and really really should listen to the full EP here & grab it on 10" vinyl here.

On the new single, frontwoman Abi says: "I remember writing this song so vividly. I'd been to a Halloween party with my brother. We were both hungover the next day and decided for some crazy reason to write a song. It all happened very fast and started with the intro bass loop and drum pattern. The song was written within the hour and immediately felt very special." 

Follow MarthaGunn - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday 1 September 2020

LISTEN: I See Rivers - 'Dying Moon'

I am delighted to learn that I SEE RIVERS are releasing their debut album Deep & Rolling Green on 2nd October. Following a string of recent singles including How and Collide, the trio are back with brand new tune Dying Moon. It's one of the more delicate tracks of the record, with those three part harmonies sending shivers up (and down, and up) your spine. Exquisite.

Originally from Norway, the trio met in Liverpool while studying, and moved to Pembrokeshire after recording their first EP at StudiOwz, a studio in a converted chapel. They returned to the chapel to record their debut with Owain Jenkins, Toby Couling, Alex Brits and Emilie Krogh Johannessen - the record was created with support from PRS Momentum Fund, Music Norway, PRS Women Make Music, BBC Launchpad and their fans via Kickstarter. It's a very communal project!

On the new track, the trio share that "Dying Moon was written on a cold and windy evening in Tenby a few years ago and was heavily influenced by Ernest Hemingway's 'The Old Man and the Sea'. The song is about devoting your whole soul and all your effort into someone or something, and only realising you've gone too far when it's already too late. [...] we wanted this track to be the time where you take a deep breath and imagine yourself floating out to sea just as the story illustrates so beautifully."

Follow I See Rivers - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.