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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Bryan Ferry on Later... with Jools Holland

Last week, Bryan Ferry appeared on Later... with Jools Holland to perform 'Loop De Li', the first track to be lifted from upcoming album Avonmore. Though it lacks the immediate impact of previous lead single 'You Can Dance' (from 2010's Olympia), 'Loop De Li' embodies the classic sound that is reminiscent of Ferry's 1994 album, Mamouna. Subtle beats, smooth sax and timeless vocals culminate to a track that shines with each further listen.


Sunday, 31 August 2014

Fine Acoustic Listens: Red Sails

Red Sails' penchant for infectious grooves and tight harmonies are perfectly captured in these acoustic sessions, recorded earlier in the year. A re-working of 'She Had It All' demonstrates the band's strong musicianship for effortless hooks and slick instrumentation, while new song 'Warzones' sets an atmospheric tone that is enhanced by spacious keys and haunting vocal harmonies. Both videos have been beautifully shot, though the fine acoustic surroundings of Liverpool's Nordic Church lends a further warmth to the latter track.



Wednesday, 25 June 2014

John Mayer at the O2 Arena, London - 09/06/14


Eight months after his last UK tour, John Mayer returned to London a few weeks ago, for a one-off date at the O2 Arena. Much like last year's October shows, this gig once again centred around Mayer's 2012 Born And Raised album, along with current release, Paradise Valley. Upon entering the O2, I was curious as to how this gig would compare to the previous year's strong, but not overly spontaneous set - especially when considering the relatively short space of time that has passed since those last UK shows.

Mayer opened the set with 'Queen Of California', followed by the instantly recognisable grooves of 'I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)' - a welcome nod to the Continuum album, refreshingly early on in the performance. These initial songs noticeably got the crowd invested in the music, all the while setting the pace for a gig that touched upon the majority of Mayer's back catalogue, including some much-yearned for early material and rarities.

Though I haven't warmed to Born And Raised and Paradise Valley in the same way as his earlier work, in my previous Mayer review, I spoke of how some of these newer songs thrived in a live setting at the last O2 show. Much like that gig, this performance delivered some songs which, although haven't captivated me on record, came to life with the support of a live band, in the dynamic surroundings of the venue. 'Speak For Me' was the most notable example of this; Mayer's harmonic vocal intro, finely complimented by backing vocalists Carlos Ricketts Jr. and Tiffany Palmer, in addition to the increased pace and momentum of the final chorus, gave the track a much more melodic, yet bold sound in comparison to the studio version that appears on Born And Raised.

In a setlist that was typically standard for this tour, early favourites like 'Neon' proved a highlight for long-time fans, and added more variety to the evening. Within this solo acoustic section of the set, Mayer also teased 'Something's Missing', and as frustrating as it was that he didn't play the Heavier Things track in its entirety, the crowd was instead treated to another surprise rarity in the form of 'In Your Atmosphere'.

Other key moments of the night naturally came by way of the Continuum record. 'Waiting On The World To Change', complete with Aaron Sterling's impressive extended drum intro was particularly memorable, while a single encore track of 'Gravity', was made all the more bittersweet by Mayer's revelation earlier in the set, that this gig would be his last UK performance in support of the Born And Raised / Paradise Valley albums. With this in mind, I felt that Mayer once again delivered a well-rounded set, which though wasn't that generous in length, managed to span most of his previous releases - particularly Continuum - while still keeping a focus on the current material, and allowing for some unexpected rarities along the way. The prospect of a new Mayer album has me intrigued as to what direction his music will now progress to, following two albums that have been so similar in genre, yet have for the most part, flourished in a live setting.





All photos courtesy of Ian McAllister



Friday, 9 May 2014

The Bedroom Hour at Paradise, London - 27/04/14


In my previous post, I raved about the infectiously unique sounds of The Bedroom Hour, and their Themes EP - an album which I have been listening to non-stop since I first downloaded it from iTunes at the beginning of the year. Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the band's gig at Paradise - a charming and characteristic venue in Kensal Green. On arrival, I was taken aback by the luxe decor, spacious rooms, and overall thriving atmosphere of the place. This aside, I was primarily there for the live music, and The Bedroom Hour certainly did not disappoint, delivering an eclectic set that featured both material from Themes and new tracks from their upcoming album.

The band took to the stage at around 8:00pm for a thirty-minute slot, which though brief in length, was more than compensated by the sheer energy and tight musicianship that was evident throughout the impressive seven-track set. Both songs played from Themes - 'Heart Will Haunt' and 'Shadow Boxer' - translated fantastically in a live setting, with heightened dynamics that sounded just as thrilling onstage as on record. Just as awe-inspiring were Stu Drummond's powerful vocals, which remained on top form throughout the performance.

Key moments of the night centred around the new songs - most notably 'Sea Without Water', in which epically spacious synths rode high alongside poignant lyrics, while the bass-driven, steady beats of 'I See Suns', kept the set's momentum strong. Another highlight was the melodically enchanting 'Nocturnal', which proved a fine choice for a set -closer, even if it did leave the crowd yearning for more.

Upon reflection of the gig, it is apparent that The Bedroom Hour are a band whose bold instrumentation and dynamic vocals are suited to venues such as Paradise. However, they could just as easily be envisioned in arenas and stadiums, such is the anthemic sound their music holds. Though I enjoyed hearing the much-loved Themes material live, it was the new tracks that ultimately shaped the set, and left me eager for the release of their upcoming debut studio album - available now for pre-order through PledgeMusic.com.


Setlist
'A Map Made From My Bones'
'Sea Without Water'
'Ghost Of A Smile'
'Heart Will Haunt'
'I See Suns'
'Shadow Boxer'
'Nocturnal'

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Bedroom Hour

The Bedroom Hour are a band I initially discovered through recommendation from fellow bloggers, in addition to the general enthusiasm and excitement that surrounds their music on Twitter and the various other social media platforms. Upon hearing their songs 'Nocturnal' and 'Heart Will Haunt', I was instantly drawn to the impressive vocal range demonstrated by frontman Stuart Drummond, along with the lush synths, dominant bass and other instrumentation that contribute to the overall solid production of their music. To say that both tracks left me eager to find out more about this West London based five-piece, and to hear further material, is a major understatement.

The Bedroom Hour's music is unique in that it is anthemic, yet structurally spacious, a quality that was evident in last year's Themes EP. Though all six tracks are consistently strong, upon the first few listens of the EP, 'Midnight Game' stood out as an early favourite. Lyrics like "The dark will not destroy your heart / There is enough light and love when you're with me" are particularly captivating, and further enhance the moody and atmospheric tone that is running throughout the song. Another key track is the dynamic 'X Marks The Spot', in which romantically inspired lines of "I will discover you from head to toe / There's not one inch of you I don't want to know" are followed by a beautifully intense guitar solo, that is backed by dreamy vocal harmonies.

Themes is a fine representation of a band that successfully fuse passionate and thought-provoking lyrics with haunting melodies, sharp hooks and energetic beats, amounting to an EP that is an endearingly authentic listen from start to finish.





Sunday, 12 January 2014

Great Songs of 2013

I've been meaning to compile one of these lists for a while now. A selection of songs that were my personal favourites throughout 2013, all of which feature regularly on my day to day playlists, yet still sound as fresh and innovative as the moment I first heard them. In the near two years that I have been writing this blog, I have been fortunate enough to have discovered some fantastic music from both emerging and established bands, many of which are unsigned or on independent labels. The list below features a selection of these tracks, along with key songs from more mainstream and universally recognised bands - all in all, a delightfully random mix of good songs.

'Ain't Messin 'Round' - Gary Clark Jr.
On 'Ain't Messin 'Round', bright horns and momentous grooves offset perfectly against Gary Clark Jr.'s soulfully raw vocals. A furiously addictive guitar solo provides further edge to the whole structural arrangement. The track may well be the most 'complete' sounding song among Clark's Blak And Blu, a record that delivers a fine array of fierce blues / rock, fused with contemporary R&B.




'A Lot Like Magic' - Josh Rouse
Another horn-centred track, albeit one of an entirely different genre, 'A Lot Like Magic' and the album from which it is lifted from - The Happiness Waltz - marks a return to the sounds of Josh Rouse's earlier albums, most notably 1972 and Nashville - arguably his best releases to date. While The Happiness Waltz doesn't quite match the musical greatness of these previous releases, it is a warm and uplifting record, full of the infectious melodies and atmospheric lyrics that Rouse is renowned for. 'A Lot Like Magic' is the standout track, and upon listening, begs the question of how a musician like Rouse hasn't experienced more commercial success throughout his career.



'Kemosabe' and 'Duet' - Everything Everything
Everything Everything's 2010 debut Man Alive, was a flurry of crazy hooks, off-beat tempos, quirky lyrics and falsetto vocals. Their follow-up, Arc, remains true to the elements that made the first album so refreshingly unique, while also demonstrating a musical progression that is reflected in the tracklist. Arc shows more consistency than Man Alive, with tracks that hold more substance and depth. 'Kemosabe' is the finest example of this, though 'Duet' is wonderfully melodic - a quality that was perhaps lacking on their debut.




'Paper Doll' - John Mayer
I haven't been captured by John Mayer's last two albums, Born And Raised and Paradise Valley, in the same way as previous releases. Though there are elements of blues in places, both records are evidently dominated by a country and folk genre, resulting in material that has a quiet, and at times, subdued feel - an obvious contrast to the rich, solid sounds of 2006's Continuum. While I prefer Mayer's earlier work, his latest releases do have clear moments of strength, most notably on Paradise Valley's 'Paper Doll'. The track is perhaps, ironically, the first single of his that I have loved since any of the material released throughout the Continuum era. Delicate guitars and rich vocals amount to a song that is equally uplifting as it is melancholy.




'Right Action' - Franz Ferdinand
Four years after their last studio album Tonight was released to mixed reviews, Franz Ferdinand made an eagerly awaited return in 2013 with Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. Lead single 'Right Action', features the signature anthemic sounds of sharp hooks and tight rhythms that made their first two records so irresistible. The rest of the album largely follows in the same vein, proving a much welcome return to form for the band.




'Alaska' - The Silver Seas
Upon its release, The Silver Seas described third studio album Alaska as being their "country record". The album definitely marks a departure from the immediate pop catchiness of debut High Society and follow-up Chateau Revenge. Unlike these previous releases, Alaska is a collection of songs that while initially, may not be instantly addictive, grow to reveal more depth on each further listen. The title track is by far the highlight of the album, with atmospheric lyrics that set the mood for the songs that follow. The album is made all the more timeless by Daniel Tashian's crisp vocals, which remain powerful and consistent throughout.




'Looking Out To Sea' - Red Sails
'Looking Out To Sea' by Red Sails was easily my favourite song of 2013. The track's superb production is apparent from first listen, with sublime instrumentation of smooth guitars, tinkering keys and crashing drums, riding effortlessly alongside lush vocals and backing harmonies. The overall result is a gloriously melodic song that is littered with interesting and unpredictable hooks from start to finish. I'm very much looking forward to hearing more music from this brilliant band in the near future.