Archive | July, 2013

Fip Fok Warriors – CoCo and the Butterfields

30 Jul

Warriors

 

 

It should come to no surprise that Coco and the Butterfields is from Canterbury, a historic English cathedral city; the band’s music is downright regal. As the photograph (an eclectic amalgam of Pocahontas and Braveheart) above suggests, the band combines traditional English pop with pastoral folk and gritty hip/hop to create a tremendous sound that has not only sparked its own derivative genre (“Fip Fok” – folk/pop/hip-hop) but also has expanded the ears of listeners while sucking them into an infectious sound. What? Did I look into the picture too much?

It should go without repeating that I am a big fan of what Coco and the Butterfields is creating, but, heck, I’m going to bedizen the group with flashy adornments of praise. The music is fresh and original. Original is an understatement. The five-piece band combines the folk prowess of Micah Hyson (double bass) and Rob Wicks (banjo) with the filthy and fresh beatbox stylings of Jamie Smith. Folk and beatbox? It takes a rare breed of band to pull off that stunt successfully. Just take a listen to the band’s glorious cover of “Just a Dream” by Nelly. It is unconventional (almost humorous in its musical absurdity), but after the initial shock sets in, it is not difficult to imagine the song being a Coco original. This is the mark of a great band.

“Warriors” takes effervescent to a new level. The music is off-the-bubbly-charts. If you do not have the sudden urge to get up, jump up and down, and sing along to the track than something must be terribly wrong with you. In a style similar to fellow countrymen Skinny Lister, Coco and the Butterfields combine a traditional folk instrumental with fresh elements. “Warriors,” though, maintains a unique theatrical feel that creates a big-screen appeal. It also maintains a dangerous contagiousness that invokes constant repetition of the song…seriously. The song is a gem. This band needs to make its way to the Big Apple, so I can hear the song live – yes, I’m selfish. Heck of a song from one heck of a band.

Get on the Coco and the Butterfields train. Follow the band on its Website, Facebook, and Twitter.

 

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The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

26 Jul

It was announced this week that Arcade Fire have completed work on their forth albums. Details are sadly short on the ground, but it will be the follow-up to The Suburbs, one of the most critically-acclaimed and sadly forgotten albums of the last few years.

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Whereas their classic 2004 album Funeral was a bombastic ode to childhood, the Suburbs saw the band looking back at their own adolescence through the prism of the places where members Win and Will Butler grew up, the suburbs of Texas. The first few songs capture the uncertainty and boredom of being a teenager in a world ruled by adults, while still managing to create a radio hit in Ready to Start. There’s a heavy sense of nostalgia weighing down on them, a childhood that’s been irreversibly lost.

From there, the album skips on a couple of years. The children – friends, siblings, lovers? – of the early chapters have grown up and are returning home after ‘the markets crashed’ in 2008. The only thing worse than yearning for your youth is having your illusions about it shattered, but that’s what happens. The climax as the album is a two part song called Sprawl. The first one is a mournful, barely musical dirge in which the protagonist attempts to find his old home in the dark and fails, while in the second Win Butler’s wife Régine Chassagne gets to display her vocal talents in an ABBA-inspired track about the daily 9-5 grinding you down. The contrast beautifully sums up the album’s complex and mature themes.

There are a dozen more things I could rave about, from the constant threat of an apocalyptic war that hangs over the early tracks, the clever symbolism of light and darkness throughout or the way it manages to make big statements without ever coming off as pretentious. After the emotionally barren music that we are so often offered nowadays, an album that asks so many personal questions about you comes as a shock.

Full disclosure – it may not be the genre-defining masterpiece I imagine it to be. It may just be the tales of leaving your childhood home struck a chord with me at a time when I was beginning university, leaving a permanent imprint, but that’s exactly what good music should do. It should say the things you can’t and explain the world to you.

The Musical Beauty of Beneath Your Beautiful

25 Jul

Labrinth

I had heard “Beneath Your Beautiful” by Labrinth and Emeli Sandé in passing prior to listening to it closely for the first time yesterday. In small pieces of the song, I was able to recognize a pleasant piano piece mixed with a melodious vocal…and that’s about it. While I am partially ashamed to admit it, my first true listen to the song came at the behest of the America’s Got Talent results show on Wednesday night – and, ironically as it is, the musicians who performed it on the show were (and still very much are) from the UK.

“Beneath Your Beautiful” is the sixth single released from Labrinth’s debut album Electronic Earth. Labrinth is the stage name of English singer-songwriter Timothy McKenzie. While proficient in numerous instruments and keen to a R&B/Pop sound, Labrinth’s debut release focused much attention to a unique electronica blend. “Beneath Your Beautiful,” which features the wonderful voice of Emeli Sandé – a Scottish recording artist – is a more traditional piano ballad, although it does feature some well-placed electronic elements.

To be honest, this song has so many elements that strike a chord with me. Yes, I just went there with a terrible music joke! The opening piano riff is candid and simple. It is unbridled musical pulchritude (I’m a sucker for piano, I know). Labrinth’s vocal features a contained emotionality that is refreshing. The man has a tremendous voice, and he is not afraid to use his pipes when the time is right. But, while the voice is excellent, it is tender, and this helps establish its candor. The song adds strings and percussion when Sandé begins to sing, and she carries the verse perfectly. The harmony established by both voices is dulcet. It’s one hell of a song. And…apparently more than 50 million people agree on YouTube.

Note: The grammar mistake in the title was a jab at grammar nuts by Labrinth – or just a sneaky way of covering up a mistake – :). Initially, I took it to mean that the singer wants to see beneath the beautiful (metaphorically) and into the soul of his/her lover (I’m cheeky like that).

The Folk Monsters of Yellow Red Sparks

21 Jul

Yellow Red Sparks

Speaking about the self-titled debut album of his folk band Yellow Red Sparks, Joshua Hanson said, “I don’t believe that it’s possible to share everything a writer is feeling or trying to convey within 3 ½ minutes of a track.” Wise words from a singer/songwriter who comes close to doing the impossible with each of the emotion-packed pieces on the album. Hanson, and fellow band-mates Sara Lynn Nishikawa (upright bass/vocals) and Goldy (drums/vocals), pack in so much Indie/Folk goodness in each song that hitting play is much like popping the cork of an expensive bottle of champagne.

Yellow Red Sparks originally started as the moniker of Hanson, a solo musician from California. After adding two members – which accentuated the Indie sound – the band released its debut album in January of this year. In the Spring, Hanson was notified that his song “Monsters with Misdemeanors” won the Grand Prize in the International Songwriting Competition (ISC). The song was selected from more than 20,000 entries. High praise for a rising folk songwriter – and a totally deserved reward for a folk song saturated with raw emotion.

A soft acoustic riff sits over light percussion and Hanson’s mature vocal. Hanson’s style hits with a similar force as singer/songwriters like Greg Laswell, Ben Gibbard, and Joshua James. The strings help add to the song’s powerful melancholy. The song’s melody, which has a DeVotchKa feel, climaxes during the bridge in a similar manner – with rising strings and crying vocals. It would be a crime to not discuss the award-winning lyrics of the piece. The lyrics tell a story of relationship turbulence, but do so in an original manner – almost minimalistic in the short verses that feature such gems as “there’s a parked car that won’t let me over
And there’s one thing I’ll regret, but you’d be the last.” The song is true tour-de-force.

Make sure to check out the rest of Yellow Red Sparks’ excellent debut release here. You can track the band on its Facebook, Twitter, and Website.

“There will always be a place for rock music!” – Carousels and Limousines Interview

19 Jul

Last week, we brought you Carousels and Limousines, a British rock band with an American heart. This week, their lead singer Sam Gotley tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the band.

 

You’re a British band with a very American sound. Was that a conscious decision?

No, not at all. We just write songs similar to music that we love which are bands like The Doors, Springsteen, Gaslight Anthem and the Rolling Stones. I guess when you listen to a lot of one type of music a bit of it rubs off on you!

 

What inspired your band to start making music together?

A mutual love of music and to be honest I think we were pretty bored in our early twenties. Finn moved in with me and Jay when we lived in Manchester and we started jamming and having a good laugh so we decided to start a band.

You say you’ve started writing songs for your next album; how will these be different from your songs on Home to Andy’s?

Well it’s early days yet, but we think our new stuff will be more characteristic of our live sound, and perhaps a little rowdier in places, also expect some big drum beats!

 

Are you more confident playing live shows know you have a whole album out?

Probably, we’ve played the songs enough times in the studio that we should be! But it’s also nice to know that fans have been listening to your album and know more of your songs when you turn up and play.

 

Looking at the Top 40, it is mostly filled with hip hop and boy bands; is there still a place for traditional rock band in today’s music scene?

There will always be a place for rock music. People blabber on about rock being dead and no good bands being around, but look at festival line-ups over summer and I guarantee 80% of the headline acts will be rock bands, because they’ve got the songs and the stamina to play long shows into the late evening. You ain’t gonna find Carly Rae Jepson or Bieber doing a 3 hour set to close out Glastonbury!

 

Finally, which song would you say you’re most proud of and why?

Probably ‘Greasy Hands’ because you really need to listen to the lyrics to work out what it’s about – it’s fun hearing people’s interpretation of it. And it’s also a bit of a challenge to play live.

If you want to know more about the band, you can find their website here or their Facebook page here. They will be playing a variety of gigs around London and Bristol this summer.

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