Wednesday, 9 May 2012

HIATUS feat. SMOKE FEATHERS – Single Review

Hiatus feat. Smoke Feathers - Change Up


RELEASE: 4th June

So this is the first collaboration between electronica producer Hiatus and indie folksters Smoke Feathers and I really hope it’s not the last. Lead song Change Up is a sumptuous slice of mellowed out electronica with a hypnotically simple piano riff and a haunting vocal performance from Smoke Feathers’ Matt Falloon. To describe the music here is almost pointless because to analyse what you hear would be to completely miss the point. The best thing to do is close your eyes and the feeling and the atmosphere form around your head. It’s a hard one to place but for me it brings back that feeling of being the first one up on a sunny morning at a festival. Or the feeling you get when you finally realise you’re over the girl/boy that broke your heart. Or waking up and thinking it’s Monday but realising it’s actually Saturday! Rare and beautiful moments. It’s optimism, hope and a sense of possibility all rolled up in to a single song.

Maybe it’s something that Falloon has picked up within his ridiculously packed life so far. Among other things the crooner has worked for two years as a trainee reporter in Guyana, chased hurricanes in Jamaica and travelled to the Gulf with Gordon Brown. The man must have seen some beautiful and wondrous things in his short years and I, for one, am grateful that he has managed to be part of recreating that experience for my ears. There are two more tracks which don’t quite match up (Book of Prayer and Flickering) but are still worth a listen. There is also a video for Change Up and it is definitely worth a watch but get your ears around the song first and let it take you back to a very specific point in your life.  


Jack Savoretti - Before The Storm

JACK SAVORETTI – Before the Storm (Fullfill Records) 

RELEASE: 4th June

This is the third album by Jack Savoretti but I have to admit that he is new to me. On the plus side it means that I get to listen to this album without any prior prejudice. On the down side this is supposed to be a fresh, new and exciting direction for Mr Savoretti and that doesn’t really make me want to listen back to his first two albums. On first listen this is fairly inoffensive, acoustically lead, good time music that would probably work in the bar scene in an American teen TV series. But then I read that sentence back and that in itself is offensive enough. I mean, if you like Paolo Nutini’s album tracks and you’re not bothered about remembering any of the tunes minutes after listening to the song then this might be up your street.

Savoretti’s voice is pitched somewhere between Paul Young’s huskiness and the forced sincerity of Nickleback’s Chad Kroeger (and yes, I did have to look that up) but even I, an average chap, can see that he is what the girls might call ‘a fittie’. The trouble is that so many of his songs seem to be self pitying odes to how he doesn’t deserve his girlfriend (Not Worthy) or the life of someone living rough (Vagabond) and none of it is very believable. There is also some sub-par lyricism on display; surely Lifetime’s “Now the sun is bound to go down but that’s alright. It happens every night. Tomorrow it comes back around and that’s OK. It happens everyday” is from the Rebecca Black School of Writing Lyrics to Point Out The Blindingly Obvious?

This album does have one or two redeeming features though which are mainly the interesting instrumental arrangements (Take Me Home) and the production quality which gives some of the songs a beautifully expansive quality. Overall though, this album has left me with one overriding feeling and that is the feeling you get when you’re in Primark and they start playing popular hits over the stereo except that it’s not quite the original version and, even though you never even liked the original version, it still irritates you until you put down that £3 duffle coat and shuffle off to TK Maxx. It’s not a terrible feeling but it can properly ruin your Saturday.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Album Review - The Clench

THE CLENCH – Walking in the Devil’s Tracks

Sheffield. Land of steel, unemployment and a rich music heritage. It was also the city where I spent my Uni years so me, Sheffield and music create something of a musical Venn diagram. The Clench can go firmly in to the little bit where all three circles coincide along with the Arctic Monkeys, Richard Hawley, the Longpigs and Pulp. A word of warning though, the Clench don’t have much in common with those either Sheffield luminaries (although the tremolo guitar present on this album is also employed by Hawley and the Monkeys from time to time). You see, the Clench are ploughing a very singular and very lonely furrow but it’s definitely one worth ploughing.

From the outset, Walking in the Devil’s Tracks is dripping in cinematic atmosphere, wailing slide guitars and bass lines so dirty you wouldn’t introduce them to your sister. Then there are the drums; urgent, punchy and with a quality that sounds like someone beating the roughest old kit in the world but making it sing. This combination makes for a beautiful racket that staggers the police enforced straight line between Country, Blues, Rock and Bluegrass. But if the music is swaggering, whiskey swilling, womanising beast then there must be something or someone that drives it forward. There is. That someone is singer Joe Meredith who slides slickly between Nick Cave’s baritone grumblings and Jon Spencer’s Blues howl with the ease of a man who simply has to sing these songs. Songs like Roadhouse, Gotcho Disease and Crawlin’ Back to You show off the band’s more raucous side but there is depth here too. All Those Things could easily grace a Mariachi El Bronx and 1000 Dead Cowboys should be used in the closing scene of the next Tarantino film (as long as it isn’t Inglorious Basterds). You can’t help but wonder if Jack White didn’t get hold of a copy of this CD when trying to get inspiration for his new album.....just sayin’.

If, as a band, you’re going to pick a style that goes beyond your music in to the titles of your songs, your imagery and your ethos then you had better be pretty damn good. The Clench have gone on all in and the gamble has paid off. Walking in the Devil’s Tracks is a great debut and a consistently strong album – no filler here. My only criticism, if you can call it that, is that I wish they’d had more time. This album was recorded in just 4 days at the famous 2Fly Studios and you can’t help but feeling that given at least a couple of weeks then this album could have been even better (a couple of tracks are crying out for some Tijuana Brass or a male voice choir, trust me). That’s hardly their fault thought is it? Times is hard and cowboy has to make a living somehow right? RIGHT!? Right. or download the album from iTunes


ARTIST - Kimbra
FROM – Hamilton, New Zealand
LINE-UP – Kimbra
FORMED – Born 1990

Well the chances are, you already do – one way or another. You see, Kimbra is the guest female vocalist on the surprise hit of the year and musical marmite Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye. Intrigued as I was by her brief performance I thought I would look in to what else the latest in a long line of antipodean sirens had produced. I was disappointed with what I found because although what she has produced is outstanding, edgy and quirky pop of the highest order, there just isn’t very much of it. With a vocal range that Nina Simone would be proud of, a sense of pop that only the real stars have and lyrics to die for, it is only a matter of time before Kimbra starts storming the charts without having to piggy-back on another musician’s relationship breakdown. If your knowledge of New Zealand music is Flight of the Conchords and Crowded House then you should probably check Kimbra out for starters and see what can happen when pop music is created by people who haven’t won a talent show or sung for the approval of Emperor Cowell.

There is an album out (Vow) but I would suggest you head in the direction of downloading the Settle Down E.P. as soon as possible. This features four pop gems in the unrequited love story of a proto Stepford Wife (Settle Down), the motown-meets-electro romp of Cameo Lover, the spooky and kooky Good Intent and finally the erratically rhythmic pulse and vocal gymnastics of Limbo – a song that is almost impossible to dance to but equally impossible to listen to without moving. Odd but brilliant.

Although she didn’t come via the talent show route, Kimbra did sing at the Waikato Times Gold Cup race meeting in 2000, aged 10. Maybe Simon Cowell should check that place out.