Tag Archives: England

Fip Fok Warriors – CoCo and the Butterfields

30 Jul




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.


The Musical Beauty of Beneath Your Beautiful

25 Jul


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).

Taking a Ride with Calaca Strides

7 Mar

Calaca Strides

Calaca Strides bends genres with a created blend of low-fi, lugubrious melodies joined with bluesy acoustic riffs and upbeat vocals. In some ways, the music may represent a subtle contradiction, but Calaca Strides blends the music together with precision.

Hailing from England, Calaca Strides released Brittle Breeze  back in September of 2012, and the four-song EP is impressive in its musical scope. Specifically, the first and last track feature the intriguing musical concoction I mention above.

“Monster,” the concluding track on the EP, begins with a plucked acoustic guitar drenched in strung-out background sound. The song creates an ethereal atmosphere, like an enigmatic sky with clouds vacillating between rain and mist. The consequent euphonious vocals over the rapid playing of acoustic guitar notes creates a medieval aura (much like Amazing Blondel did in the early 70s with “Sinfonia for Guitar and Strings”). The song is an ode to progressive rock and modern folk.

“Row By Row,” is the nearly seven minute opening track on Brittle Breeze. It is an impressive song. I appreciate its multifaceted musicality. The listener is introduced to tremendous melodies that naturally transition into an eccentric mixture of folk/blues (almost like Amos Lee). The sounds introduced throughout the piece are fascinating.

Check out the rest of the album by clicked on it above. Stay up on Calaca Strides on Facebook and Twitter or visit the website.

The Rise of Jamie Lidell

9 Feb

You never know what you’re going to get when you find an artist that doesn’t fall in the bounds of a specific genre. Sometimes it is just too erratic and “art for art’s sake.” I know there is merit in pushing boundaries, and it’s great to challenge the status quo of music, but I still need melody, and I still want to enjoy what I’m listening to. I don’t care how avant-garde you are. If I don’t like your music, my opinion isn’t going to change just because you think you’re original. You can write new stuff all day that no one has ever composed or dreamed of, but if it’s garbage then I don’t know what all the fuss is about. There is another case though.

Some artists can’t be placed into a solid genre for a better reason. Sometimes artists are just putting together albums that reach far boundaries that become a sublime blend of music that keeps you guessing the entire record. Sure, I love it when bands like AC/DC put out albums because you know exactly what you’re going to get, but I also love being surprised and finding something fresh in a new album.

I recently stumbled upon the music of Jamie Lidell. He is a solo artist from England. He currently lives in Nashville and puts on one hell of a show. He achieved his fame looping rhythm tracks with his vocals and performing as a one man show. I caught wind of this because he is featured on a Simian Mobile Disco track that I love (Off the Map). His music is incredibly soulful, super rhythmic and a complete dance marathon of melody laden music. I can’t imagine this guy being a secret in the music industry much longer.

Both of these songs are the night and day of his music so just in and check out the range of this up and coming artist.

Check out his website for more.

First Stop: London

22 Jun

The Clash proclaimed quite popularly in their 1979 punk masterpiece that they were “London Calling.” I have perverted the angst demonstrated in that song and will now use it for my own tourist purposes. Yes, I too was London Calling, but as an American who had never been to The Big Smoke. Wow, that’s an outdated nickname, ain’t it. Rebecca, my girlfriend, and I took off on June 1 (conveniently missing the Mets first no-hitter later that night…I don’t want to talk about it) and landed in London early June 2 to cloudy skies and light rain (which would follow us around like a dog throughout our stay…and most of our trip elsewhere). But we were troopers and with umbrellas at ready went out to explore London by way of tourist bus and London underground. Our first impressions? Rainy, but soaked in antiquity and culture. It also didn’t hurt that we visited London (unintentionally) during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee which provided us with a full-on display of British celebration and culture.

While this post does not have much to do with music, I thought you might find our stop in London interesting. I also think you might enjoy a taste of Paris and Berlin over the next few days. Talking about taste.

Is there any better picture to start out with. You know I am an American when my box of fried goodness is loaded with the sticky rouge of ketchup. Notice the variety and straight-up disorderly jumble of my little artistic food picture above. In a way it describes our culinary experience in London. We had Sardinian cuisine, British staples like fish and chips, pies, and pasties, Indian food, and Chinese cuisine at Chinatown at 11 p.m. We crisscrossed cultures and broke down culinary boundaries. Actually, we didn’t. See, that’s the thing with London. It is so ethnically diverse and culturally open. It reminded me of New York in many ways. Hmm…I wonder why. New York was named after the Duke of York, a title of nobility in the British peerage. New York in many ways is like London’s cool nephew. I felt at home in London, more so than in Paris and Berlin (perhaps that’s because they spoke English).

You knew you were getting an image of Abbey Road

There I am in my Grateful Dead zip-up grinning like a fool. It’s funny. Now that I look back at this photo it actually seems photoshopped. I assure you it’s not. Rebecca and I took the trek west of Regent’s Park to Abbey Road. It was quite the trek, but I would be lying if I didn’t say it was completely worth it. Like I am sure you all know, this intersection is still an active roadway. Can you imagine having to drive on that street to get to work everyday and having to deal with starry-eyed tourists walking back and forth like idiots to imitate the Beatles. Damn Beatles! I’m not going to lie, besides from thinking about getting run over by a car, I was humming a little ditty to myself as I walked quickly on the beaten white lines. It went a little like this:

Like I said earlier, the Diamond Jubilee transversed our time in London. It was quite exceptional seeing all the preparation for the celebration of the Queen’s 60 years of reign, only the second time a Jubilee has reached diamond status (other was Queen Victoria in the 19th century) since the British monarchy began with Offa the Mercia in the late eighth century (even though some consider the true beginning to be with William the Conquerer in 1066…even though the kingdom of Wessex is the first kingdom to unite England after beating the Mercians in the ninth century (okay I will shut the hell up).

The Fish and Chips photo from above came from the day of the Thames River Pageant which saw thousands of individuals crowd bridges and traffic-less streets to view the procession of boats (including the royal barge) down the Thames. Big video boards showing histories of the Queen on repeat lined the streets. People walked around in suits of the British flag and sang God Save the Queen (I’m serious).

There was also a concert during the five-day celebration at Buckingham Palace that was streamed to various viewing areas like Hyde Park. Here is a picture of my girlfriend before we dug into a vegetarian pie. It was delicious. But through it all my favorite memory from London was something we saw that was not even in London.

That is my beautiful girlfriend and I in front of Stonehenge, the famous pre-historic rock something-or-other built by people who lived on the land that is now the English county Wiltshire anywhere between 3000-2000 BCE. Yes, the rocks are old and they also make extraordinary pictures.

See…I told you

Damn group of people to the right of the picture. I should photoshop them out. What is so intriguing about this rock formation, besides its age, is that no one is quite sure what the formation was. A temple? Was it a clock? Or perhaps…aliens? They are all theories, and besides the last one they are all reputable notions. Since the people did not keep written records (but they were able to master dragging rocks from hundreds of miles away to this spot) we will never know for sure.

It also was pretty funny that the first time we saw blue skies was at Stonehenge.

Rebecca and I made sure to catch some theatre on our last night in London. We chose to see a rock musical based on the music of Queen because, well, we both love the music of Queen. The music was killer (like the title pun, lol) and it made for a great last night in the city.

So there you have it. London. Next Stop: Paris. Before we get there, here is an image of the Tower Bridge.

Bye for now London

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