Album Reviews

In the congested world of singer songwriters, it takes something special to stand out and particularly to tread that careful fine line between genuinely heartstring tugging and James Blunt style foppishness.

The ever excellent Secretly Canadian label may just have found their man in Australian Ben Abraham.

The Melbourne based artist releases debut album Sirens and is the result of a 8 year process from writing his first song for a sick kid while working in a local hospital to touring with Emmylou Harris and finally getting quite some exposure from the likes of Zane Lowe.

The 13 track album is a ode to love, loss and growth, the usual singer songwriter tropes, but this is an enchanting listen and is a much more complex listen that other artists in this category. It’s not a case of one man and his acoustic guitar, but a much more coloured in album.

Lead single from the album You and Me, was debuted on Beats 1 radio, and is a perfect taster of what the album holds, ending as it does with some lush orchestration.

This is On Me is a track that starts with some simple piano, before Abraham goes on to describe a failed relationship where both parties are taking the blame for the breakup. Sara Bareilles plays the female part to gorgeous effect as the voices complement and intertwine with each other.

The album has many highlights so will be unfair to pick any out in particular, but again its a record to listen to as an entire piece of work on a good pair of headphones or speakers whilst not being distracted by anything else.

Abraham’s voice is beguiling and seductive, think somewhere between Peter Gabriel and Guy Garvey, and you won’t go far wrong. At it’s heart is an English folk album, but it’s much more than that which results is a gorgeous, calming listen. This guy should have a decent 2016.

8/11

Keith @kjsmith4082

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Barry Hyde is the lead singer and guitarist of The Futureheads, and his debut solo album ‘Malody’ will be released on the 3rd June 2016 via Sirenspire Records.

Having lived with the album for a few days, it has really become something to admire. This is not a record that will fall into your lap in terms of appreciation, that is something that grows stronger with each listen.

Says Barry: “Those of you familiar with my work with The Futureheads may be expecting an album of new wave inspired, four-part harmony, guitar music. ‘Malody’couldn’t be further away from that. The album is based around my first instrument, the piano, and also features violin, cello, double bass, tenor and baritone sax, pedal steel and trumpet.”

Discussing the album’s themes, Barry explains: “What is ‘malody’? Malody is a word I have invented, derived from the words, melody and malady. A malody is a melody that expresses mental malaise, mental illness and deep sadness or its opposite, mania. I know about these things, as I am bipolar. This album is a musical representation of what it feels like to experience the extreme states of mind that characterise bipolar existence. Like many bipolar people, creativity is central to my life, central even, to my illness. This album is a bipolar album, it was written in the rare and exquisite moments of intense creativity that comes in an almost complimentary way with the highs and lows. It’s a deep, highly personal catharsis, a document of my experience.”

Side one of the album opens with the ‘Malody Suite’, which is sharply paced at some points, then deliver’s exquisite melodies at other points. ‘Theme’ is the opening segment and the opening lyrics; “How can I expect this madness to end, by staring at myself and tearing myself apart” aptly shows that this is someone letting you into his life, via his music.

Gentle and loud music, poignant and sad words, this is a sparkling solo debut and the fact that it’s the piano at the fore rather than, keyboards or electronics, this really gives the album the grandeur it deserves.

10/11

Pete

Barry Hyde ‘Malody’

01 Theme
02 Blixer
03 Malody
04 Monster Again
05 Crazy Love
06 Sugar
07 Lonely
08 Loneliness
09 While We Were Sleeping
10 Sometimes It Snows In April
11 Thunder Song

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‘Malody’ is available now on CD, vinyl and download

The thing about a single or EP from a new band is that, after hearing it, you should be left wanting to hear more and that is precisely what Manchester band The Cupids have achieved on their single ‘Kickin’ in’ and the two other tracks thereon.

The band; vocals & guitar, Sid Cooper and Jake Fletcher, drums, James Cardus and bass, Ryan Cormac have released 3 solid, sharp and after a couple of listens very catchy songs.

Cupids are a new band having only formed in September 2015. A slot on last Autumn’s Blossoms tour honed the band and got them some attention. They have an ever-growing fan base and even Donovan recently offered them one of his unrecorded songs.

‘Kicking’ In’ is a catchy song with a Squeeze / Artic Monkeys like vibe. Second track, ‘Adult Terrors’ is the class of the three songs, a widescreen toe tapper with sharp guitar riffs. Final song of the set is ‘Confession Box’ which takes the pace down and shows the band’s adaptability to different styles.

Following a string of dates around an appearance at The Great Escape, tTe band will be playing some festivals later in the year including Isle of Wight (June), Kendall Calling (July) and Neighbourhood Manchester (October). Let’s hope there is an album to follow soon

Pete

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New Single ‘Kickin’ In' has a digital release on 3rd June 2016

Mention the statement Folk Opera and I expect you do 1 of 2 things ; run for the hills, or warmly recall Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown and hope and pray that The Butcher is half as good as that release. Well, you’re in luck...

The Butcher is a 20 song double album’s worth of storytelling which may have been called a concept album once upon a time. It’s an epic ghost story, with a folklore style message of The Butcher who is often knuckle deep in blood, but has seen no evidence of a soul. I guess the one downside of reviewing a digital release is lack of access to the lyrics which would surely enhance this listening experience.

Mosley has a golden beautiful voice up there with all his folk contemporaries, especially Nick Drake, and he has a cast of (almost) thousands helping him out of the record :Jamie Lawson, Esther Dee, Moses (Mosley’s old band), Carolyn Mark (Canadian Juno award winner), Josienne Clarke (BBC Folk Awards 2015 winner, just signed to Rough Trade) and musicians from Florence & The Machine, Feist, Benjamin Clementine and Patrick Wolf's bands.

In these days of Spotify and playlists, this is an album that totally bucks the trend and demands to be listened to from start to finish, and even seen as a live stage play or performance. As such, I will avoid mentioning specific tracks as the overall result is more than just a sum of its parts.

This is epic, daunting, dark, mysterious, nostalgic, contemporary, light, dark and most importantly wonderful. How refreshing to have releases like this in today’s climate of quick fixes and instant gratification. Take some time to listen and absorb this record and you will be richly rewarded.

9/11

Keith @kjsmith4082

Website

Folkwit Records

Hands up who can remember back to 2004? and even more points if you remember the gorgeous debut by Marjorie Fair called Self Help Serenade? If I remember correctly, this featured in my top 10 of that year, and such was my love of the album, I couldn’t wait for the follow up...

Well, its been a long 12 years wait, but finally I Am My Own Rainbow drops digitally via Psychic Bully Records, and the burning question is, has time been kind to Marjorie Fair...?

Marjorie Fair is the New Jersey native multi talented and multi instrumental Evan Slamka, aided on this release by several friends and associates and produced by Joey Waronker who has worked with Beck, REM and ahem, Atoms For Peace. Following the debut, and extensive touring and promotion, the band were suddenly dropped by Capitol despite nearing completion of the follow up and subsequently Slamka put his energies into differing projects with little success.

The enigmatically titled I Am My Own Rainbow sounds unmistakably like Marjorie Fair, which seems most comfortably described as chamber folk pop - think maybe somewhere between Midlake and Blitzen Trapper.

The lovely atmospheric Brothers and Sisters kicks off the record in a typically dreamy manner, with lazy lyrics and gorgeous instrumentation - perhaps Slamka’s residence in LA has an influence on these sun drenched tracks.

Avalanche, half way through the album is an acoustic gem the likes of which Bright Eyes used to write. The theme is one of lost love and heartbreak “and now, the love you had for me is dead”...

Next up Save Time picks us up off the floor with its twinkling layers and subdued lyrics, and almost lulls the listener into a blissful haze of being.

Closing track Songbird is again a simple, gorgeous acoustic lead track, and offers the advice to “don’t make the mistakes I made”

So has time been kind to the band ? Well, to be honest, time has stood still for Marjorie Fair, which is no bad thing, With a sound rooted in the past, but somehow still sounding contemporary, Marjorie Fair sits comfortably alongside the aforementioned bands with the classic dreamy Laurel canyon vibe and aspirations. Just don’t leave us waiting another 12 years for album number 3.

8/11

Keith @kjsmith4082

Band facebook page