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Craig Hopkinson

idris elba stand by me

SINGLE REVIEW: IDRIS ELBA – ‘STAND BY ME’

WORDS – CRAIG HOPKINSON

Idris Elba is, by all accounts, the Midas of his time; anything he touches turns to gold. Not only is he an international movie superstar, a world-renowned tech-house and progressive house DJ, nor is he simply an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), Idris has pushed out one of the best new singles of 2019 thus far, ‘Stand By Me’. (Additionally, Idris Elba also just happens to be my number one man-crush, so there’s also that).

 

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Happy to announce my directorial debut #Yardie is opening in theatres across the U.S next Friday 15th March

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‘Stand By Me’, a Dancehall infused, dub totting, instant reggae banger is one of the single releases from a collection of tunes inspired by last year’s Elba film; Yardie. Incorporating audio samples from the film, ‘Stand By Me’ and other tracks to be released over the course of the year were produced and arranged by Idris Elba and include collaborations with various British and Jamaican artists. Brixton born artist Tanika and Jamaican Dancehall singer Kranium joined Elba in bringing us ‘Stand By Me’ and instantly the listener is belted by what can only be described as very traditional reggae sound. With a ‘2-step’ and roots feel throughout the song, ‘Stand By Me’ issues archetypal up-stroke guitar patterns and Rhodes keys played with such swing that the whole piece bounces classically, as all good reggae does. It’s a positive vibration indeed.

Lyrically, the song is in keeping with the narrative of the film and the themes it portrays. The story of a young Yardie from Jamaica, witnessing the ills of the world around him, murder, organised crime and gangsters, wondering who, if anyone, will stand by him in times of trouble and strife.

The production level here is so clean and vibrant, it’s a really well-oiled piece. Each instrument has its own shelf of frequency and every second just sounds so clear; the instrumentation throughout is immense, but to play the reggae strum pattern properly a guitar player needs to have paid their dues. Here’s the thing though, I really can’t tell if all the drums were recorded live or if they are all digitally sequenced or punched in with a sampler like an MPC. This is surprising because it either means the live drumming is that tight or sounds almost electronic or if the drum samples used and the patterns created are that tight and authentic they sound as though they were played live.

Is there anything this man cannot do? If one thing is for sure, the box of top-notch music producer has officially been ticked. Keep making bangers like this Mr.Elba and I’m sure we’ll all stand by you.

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jonathan bree

SINGLE RELEASE: Jonathan Bree – ‘Fuck It’

WORDS BY CRAIG HOPKINSON

It could easily be said that our generation is the generation of apathy. Disenchanted, disenfranchised and disillusioned politically and in most cases financially. Yet we are fat from the foods of every far reaching corner of the planet, stuffed and lacklustre from the ease of access to vast and infinite forms of media now available, and choice is only ever a finger or thumb tap away. Millennials, now in adulthood, and what could be categorised as ‘post-millennial’ teenagers, now steer the wheels of the world and, like frustrated Punks in the mid 1970’s, artistry echoes the ‘vox populi’ and it’s lazy, frustrated screams. 

Fuck it. That is the name of the latest single release by Jonathan Bree and that one forlorn phrase explains the message of the song perfectly. Fuck it.  

 

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Performing today at the Parish 12:30pm and then at Hotel Vegas at 5:30pm Captured here at the Desert Daze showcase by @mr_wingard

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From the tone of the lead vocal to the reverberated ‘80s influenced pad sounds, and even the music video; this piece is awesome and could be the dulcet war cry of our generation. If Aldous Huxley heard music in his head when he wrote ‘A Brave New World’ then it would have sounded like this.  

In terms of the production of the song, there is a great use of reverb throughout. The whole song is very lucid and fluent thanks to an almost wet sounding reverb and delay effects unit. Like an original new-wave or post-electro pop piece, Fuck It is crammed with electronic keyboard chord progressions, perhaps a Korg or a Yamaha. Conversely, the main guitar riff sounds a lot more analogue to most of the other instruments used. The riff played continuously throughout the track, finger picked from the guitar chords used, almost has a vague hint of an American Country Music riff. The glue that holds this awe-inspiring yet apathetic and paradoxical song together, in terms of instrumentation, is the drum section. Such a heavy kick drum, married up with this crunchy snare, gives this lullabied melody some contrasting bite.  

The surreal and slightly eerie music video looks as though it was filmed in the 1960’s. A black and white filmed room of dancing girls, dressed as though they are an episode of ‘Soul Train’. A complete contrast to the new-wave sound indeed. The eerie thing is; everyone in the video is wearing a fully lycra body suit, from head to toe, covering their faces. Why? Not a clue.   

This really is such an amazing song. It effortlessly speaks in volume about the ills of our society, our generation and somehow encapsulates it and makes it beautiful. The music video is witty and thought-provoking and as a bit of a treat for our more lyrically inclined readers; Jonathan Bree posted the lyrics of the song in the YouTube video description.

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MCR RESIDENT- Modern Logic: 1st Birthday Bash

WORDS BY: CRAIG HOPKINSON

MCR Live residents, and masters of all things groovy, Modern Logic, are hosting a live event at the Eat New York Bagel Shop on 16th March in celebration of their first birthday, and by all accounts it’s set to be a mash-up of Manchester based music collectives and art installation groups, all jamming together in one spot.

Breaking on through with a set from Ciggy De Le Noche, the Birthday Bash event will twist with a trove of jazz blends, soul hits, flutes and funky electronica from headliner Yadava, co-founder of So Flute, Manchester based event, who will officially kick us off.  Closing the night, we have a set from NTS Radio resident; Black Eyes, the DJ and organiser of Lost Control events in Manchester who was recently listed as one of Red Bull’s top ten Manchester DJ’s.

While the event is set to be filled with a vast selection of DJ’s, producers and electronic music collectives, the organisers of the bash also partnered with Get It Done; art and social change group who have exhibited installations at Manchester venues last year and have continued outreach work across the city for the last twelve months. The art and outreach collective have showcased visual art installations, married with the music of some of Manchester’s finest DJ’s, successfully for a year, and so they will be sharing the birthday celebrations and collaborating with Modern Logic to bring us an awesome event of art and music.

It’s events like these, and the multitude of growing art and music co-operatives, which make the ever inspiring Manchester music scene what it is. A city of music, culture and radio station residents, marauding and riffling record fairs and digging for ancient wax at local charity shops, who formulate night’s like this; the first Birthday Bash event by the Modern Logic mob and organisers at Get It Done.

To check out what’s happening on the 16th March, why not look for Modern Logic on the usual social media platforms before hand, or just head in down to Eat New York Bagel Shop on Oldham Street from 10pm and join the party. Expect awesome art installations, plenty of groovy tunes and an amazing vibe.


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SINGLE RELEASE: Foals – ‘On The Luna’

WORDS BY CRAIG HOPKINSON

Foals are back, as though they had never left, and they are here with this very cryptic, cowbell heavy, lyrical conundrum; On The Luna, the second single release taken from the unreleased album, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1, due to be released 8th March this year.

Packed to the brim with slick and punchy ‘80s keyboard synth sounds, rhythmic lead guitar riffs and that old symbolic rock essential; the cowbell, banging away like a metronome throughout the whole piece – On The Luna is an instant indie rock anthem.

Lyrically,  I am at a complete and utter loss with this song. What the hell are you boys going on about? Although, Foals did very kindly transcribed the lyrics of the song which were then left for us curious enquirers to read in the description of the YouTube video. However, after close inspection of said lyrics, I’m still non-the-wiser. There are a few bread crumbs here and there though, which elude to perhaps a somewhat subtle message in the song. The lines;  “Trump clogging up my computer” and “Agitator. Extricater. Won’t you come evacuate her” lead me to believe this could be some sort of politically driven song, making reference to Trump. But again, I have no clue.

The production, as always with Foals, is anthem inspired and full of awe. Lots of reverb and delay on the heavily layered vocals, tonnes of intonation on the lead guitar and then some very  deep, synthesised pad sounds that give the song its signature, choral effect. They just sound massive. I can hear that they record in an old hall, or a very large room. This also adds to the sound described.

What gives this song its salt has to be the silky voice of lead singer and guitarist, Yannis Philippakis. When a Foals song plays, there tends to be a yearning feeling pulsating from the front-man that is unique to this band and gives them the instant familiarity and the likeability that they now have as an institutionalised U.K. indie band. Welcome back Foals, we missed you!

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SINGLE RELEASE: Nick Waterhouse – ‘Song For Winners’

WORDS BY CRAIG HOPKINSON

Nick Waterhouse certainly is an old-school rhythm and blues player; there is no doubt about that. Taking obvious influences from Jazz, blues and soul; this Los Angeles singer and songwriter hurtles the listener back, way back, back to when television was in black and white and a rumour of a new, taboo infused musical genre was afoot – rock ‘n’ roll – ‘The devil’s music’.  

Nick’s latest single, Song For Winners, is exactly that, an original rock ‘n’ roll track and it sounds like it was recorded in a ‘wall of sound’ fashion, recording all the instruments in one take, like producer Phil Spector, one of the architects of modern music production and executive producer of the famous song Be My Baby, recorded with The Ronettes 

In terms of production, the instrumentation used on this track is off the chart. Nick and the production team at Innovative Leisure Records have graced us with a whole trove of awesome sounding sections; from brass, including a very sexy saxophone hitting the lower shelf every now and then, lovely backing vocal harmonies throughout, an array of jazz and soul influenced percussion sections and a drummer with more swing than Tarzan.

 

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@jeebz_flatt on piano with @nickwaterhouse opening for @allenstone at @930club November 21, 2018. Shot for @chunkyglasses

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The use of a 1950’s Shurre 55 microphone, or the Elvis-styled microphone, if you will, gives authenticity to the piece. I’m also pretty sure that isn’t an effects plugin the producers have used to get that iconic, muffled microphone crunch on the lead vocal, it’s the real deal. To round it all up, Song For Winners has definitely won me over. Well done Nick, I’m a fan. It’s a cool sound, paying homage to the traditions of rock ‘n’ roll, recorded in the old Phil Spector, Wall of Sound-way. One take, all in one room. It has a great energy to it and really showcases Nick, the other musicians, and the production team, as the great blues players they are. It almost sounds effortless.  

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SINGLE RELEASE: Pip Blom – ‘Daddy Issues’

WORDS BY CRAIG HOPKINSON

Daddy Issues by the awesome punk inspired, Dutch indie band, Pip Blom, is first and foremost a driving song. A song that should be played, whenever possible, at high volumes in the car on your drive to or from work. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this song was picked up by the advertising department of a major car manufacturer and used as the backing music for a television advert. You heard it here first.

The song has such a cool sound. It reeks of ‘70s punk and seems almost lazy and effortless, but it’s only the illusion of laziness. It has a swung vocal style amidst a solid and tight drum section, grungy and distorted punk chords and an amazing arrangement. The three-chord lead, chorus, and vocal melodies are all very catchy too.

Pip Blom, named after their lead singer of the same name, are an Amsterdam based outfit who seem to take influence from British punk and indie music with this almost Manchester-indie sound. Pip’s voice is refreshingly familiar and gave this song the light tone that was required to contrast against those distorted and punky lead and bass guitars.

 

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Pip Blom 28.01.19 . @pipblom : @we_broke_free : @60mpc : @ivw_uk

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The production of the track seems very professionally worked, with some great multitrack instrumentation and a lovely touch of mastering, post-production. Although the lead and bass guitar melodies are quite basic, the overall musicianship of the piece is strong and it feels like any laziness or loosely played lead melodies are played so for effect to give a sense of satire or tongue-in-cheek.

This band reminds me of The Clash and Pip is like a much sweeter sounding Joe Strummer. But the band are equally as energetic and intense, and believe me; that is a bold statement. With a sharp and satirical rhyming couplet, passionate lead vocals and a punk-influenced indie groove, Pip Blom are a revitalising revisit to a much longed for indie sound.

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TRACK RELEASE: Yaeji – ‘One More’

WORDS BY CRAIG HOPKINSON

Yaeji, the Brooklyn born, Korean-American producer, DJ and singer, returns with a brand new single; One More, following the success of last year’s EP2 release. One More is a subtle and delicate amalgam of crossed cultures and mixed languages and hybridises eastern pop sounds and classic Chicago dance.

With a four-to-the-floor dance beat that kicks nicely throughout the song, Yaeji uses her very soft and sweet tone of voice as the main instrument for the hook melody throughout the piece, which sits perfectly on top of a very simple baseline. However, do not let the sweet and innocent style of this pioneering performer deceive you, there is some intense musical barrier breaking going on with Kathy Yaeji Lee’s work that quite blatantly displays how fierce and groundbreaking she really is.

At the start of the track, Yaeji sings in Korean. I have absolutely no clue what she is singing about, but it sounds awesome nonetheless. The vocal melody and lead synth loop, again very sweet and innocent sounding, rest delicately amidst quite groovy and dense 808 trap hi-hats and dubbed baselines. A touch of auto-tune or a Melodyne effect is often used throughout the song, but used in the correct manner; subtly and used to emphasise drops or specific words in the vocal.

 

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Our girl @kraejiyaeji was PHENOMENAL last night at #iiipoints @iiipoints #checkthevibes ❤️✊🏽

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The track does have quite a dance feel to it, but the focus of the piece is a clever mix of cultural sound patterns and broken barriers in terms of language and genre. The chord progression in the main melody has a sense of the oriental about it, it’s quite pentatonic and syncopated, which contrasts amazingly against trap hats and an 808, dance vibe. This, mixed with a variance in the use of lyrical language, makes One More feel like a very internationally influenced piece of music indeed.

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SINGLE RELEASE: Honeyblood – ‘The Third Degree’

WORDS BY CRAIG HOPKINSON

Honeyblood is back once again with The Third Degree, the blues-heavy, punk-inspired, grunge rock single taken from upcoming album; In Plain Sight, due to release 24th May this year.

The Glaswegian singer and songwriter, Stina Tweeddale, formed Honeyblood in 2012 as a duo along with guitarist Shona McVicar, whom left and was later replaced by Cat Myers. After signing an exclusive recording contract with Marathon Artists, a London-based independent record label, in 2019, the band announced that they would release their third studio album. The Third Degree is the first single release from the same album; a bluesy, post-punk piece somehow incorporating a 1960s wall of sound.

Deep and heavy, live kick drums introduce the song to the listener as if The Third Degree, was somehow produced by Jimmy Bowen of Phil Spector for a band like The Blossoms or The Ronettes in the early ‘60s. The whole song has such an analogue feel to it, as though nothing digital was used to engineer it. It sounds like the whole thing was recorded on an old reel-to-reel Akai recorder and sent through some archaic multitrack mixer from Chuck Berry’s basement. Conversely, the lyricism and tone of the vocals throughout the song are quite evidently influenced by the punk era. There’s a level of angst in the singer’s voice that neatly contrasts with this ‘60s production and arrangement giving the whole song the post-punk element that Honeyblood has crafted over the years.

The mastering and sound maximisation for this track is awesome. The whole thing pops out of the speakers while leaving room for every sound made available without upsetting or taking away from any other layer. Each instrument resides within its own shelf or frequency perfectly, something I rarely hear from even the most commercially produced musicians. The Third Degree, is such a great track. Showcasing some fantastic production work and instrumentation, great use of the traditional rock and roll sounds and then it is very cleverly topped off with a touch of punk. Lovely.

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IN CONVERSATION WITH: ‘Caiine’

WORDS BY CRAIG HOPKINSON

Caiine is the London born, Northwich raised, alternative R’n’B singer and songwriter, avidly conquering the hearts and minds of Manchester music lovers, one soulful gig at a time. With a vocal range as long as your arm, a stylistic and iconic voice akin to that of Nina Simone and Sade, and a sonic pallet throughout her music that keeps the listener locked into a perpetual state of awe; Caiine isn’t messing about, by all accounts.

This emerging, soul-influenced and dynamic vocalist isn’t here for fortune or fame, as she stated in a recent interview for MCR Live, in Manchester last week; Caiine is a true artist, using her music for communication and catharsis, and should be taken very seriously indeed.

Whether it’s a lyric ladened, jazz-influenced, R’n’B ensemble, or boom bap infused pop piece, Caiine’s music is fresh, awe-inspiring and hypnotic; and she very graciously and humbly answered a few questions about her latest project ‘The Game’, her musical idiom and her plans for the future.  

Can you give us, and our readers, a little bit of a background about yourself, who you are and where you’re from?

Caiine: I’m Caiine, I’m twenty years old and I’m an alternative R’nB singer and songwriter. I was originally born in Lewisham, I lived there with my parents for the early part of my childhood and then moved up to Northwich, in Cheshire, before my teens.

Lewisham is a far cry from Northwich, what made you move?

Caiine: Well, to be honest, it was a family break up kind of thing and so we just moved up here when I was about seven or eight years old.

So, how did you originally get into music and singing?

Caiine: When I was at school, around the age of six or seven, a teacher heard me sing and then literally forced me to sing in the school’s next talent show. I was so embarrassed, but she honestly made me do it. That was the first time I had ever sung in front of people, and I loved it!

What did you sing?

Caiine: Did you have to ask me that, it’s a little embarrassing; I sang ‘Dedication’ by Lamar.

Nothing wrong with a bit of Lamar, don’t be embarrassed. When I hear you sing, I can hear a Nina Simone influence in your tone. Sometimes I hear a hint of Sade too, would you say that is a fair assessment?

Caiine: I’m not too sure about the Sade influence, I haven’t really heard very many Sade songs to be fair, apart from ‘Smooth Operator’. But I wouldn’t say I sound like her. I love Nina Simone though, she is definitely a big influence musically.

Now, I’m aware that Caiine is your pseudonym, what is the concept being that, is it a religious thing? As in, Cain and Abel from the Bible?

Caiine: No not at all; I was looking for a name with power or strength to it. After researching names and their meanings I came across this version of the name and learned its meaning. Apparently, it relates to being strong and powerful. It’s not in any way related to Cain and Abel.

It’s a cool sounding name. I like the way it’s spelled too. You have a single coming out at the end of January if I have that right? Called ‘The Game’,  and from what I’ve heard, it’s outstanding. Can you tell me what the song is about and who produced it? Also, it has a running theme of a game player in there, is this a love song of sorts? Is it about anyone in particular?

Caiine: It kind of is about someone in particular, but I won’t get into that right now, let’s say it’s about no one in particular. Actually, to be honest, when I started putting the song together it was about someone, and I suppose it was about perceiving them as a game player or playing some kind of game. Then, as the songs formulated and I delved deeper into it, I realised it was actually more about me, how I was playing a game and it became a lot more introspective. So no, it isn’t about anyone in particular, it’s about me.

The song was produced by producer and musician, Keiran Flynn, who is also my manager, and it’s a really progressive, alternative R’n’B song. Previously, I had worked on a few, more soul-influenced, songs with Keiran. The music was solely focussed on my voice but I wanted to work with different styles and influences and so we came up with this track ‘The Game’. Keiran is a really good producer too, so it was easy for him to move away from a vocal-heavy style of ballads and slow R’n’B, towards this type of music.

When can we expect a release date for ‘The Game’ and what have you planned in terms of promotion and marketing to launch the single?

Caiine: My whole focus has just been on the music, making it the sound the best that it can. Keiran will deal with all the advertising and marketing stuff because, to be honest, I’m not about the fame or fortune, or to ‘make it’; I’m a musician and concentrate all my attention on that. I gig as often as I can in bars and venues around Cheshire, and Manchester more recently. The single should be available at the end of January but you’ll have to wait for an exact release date I’m afraid.

I am really interested in music videos though and want to work on a visual project to coincide with this single, and others I have in the pipeline that will form part of an EP or album to be released later in the year, or early 2020.

Caiine, this has been awesome. Thank you for talking to me, is there anything you would like to sign off with that I may have missed?

Caiine: Just that, if anything, any recognition should be for the music. It’s the most important thing to me as an artist and musician; that the art is recognised simply as good music. I’m getting deeper into a more progressive, alternative form of R’n’B song production and it’s a direction I’m really excited about.

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ALBUM RELEASE: Neneh Cherry – ‘Broken Politics’

WORDS BY CRAIG HOPKINSON

Neneh Cherry, the ‘7 Seconds’ superstar, is back once again with ‘Broken Politics’, the new jazz/pop-infused album to come from the world famous, Swedish born singer. Before the album begins, it’s hard not to notice how eye-catching and transfixing the artwork is, it really portrays Neneh Cherry’s artistry. From the off, it’s easy to determine that ‘Broken Politics’ is going to be a very expressive experience and so I don the hat of creative thought once more, strap myself in for an abstract journey, and await the luscious tones of the lovely Neneh, mixed with some very funky Jazz.

The first track ‘Fallen Leaves’ is actually quite tame on the Jazz-meter. A simple, drill styled, up-tempo drum beat sits quietly below a simple piano melody.  The focus is clearly on Neneh’s voice and the lyrical content and in fact, there aren’t very many layers of vocals recorded at all. It’s extremely minimalist, simple and very sweet.  Like the art is speaking for itself and was given room to breathe. Neneh Cherry also has such a lovely voice and so the song holds together perfectly. A great introduction to the album.

Skipping forward a few tracks to the seventh song of the album, ‘Natural Skin Deep’, and Neneh has cranked it way up all the way to Miles Davis on the Jazz dial. This is such a brilliantly hectic song and a great aperitif for any listeners that are a tad unfamiliar with the weird and wonderful ways of modern Jazz, and other Jazz influenced genres. ‘Natural Skin Deep’ sounds like New York. With the sound of NYPD sirens whizzing by, a lull of voices at a breakfast diner, I can almost smell the coffee. A relatively standard hip-hop beat brings in Neneh’s funky style of double time singing, a kind of singing and rapping with added melody. Then, at around halfway through the song, Neneh switches to a full Jazz ensemble and completely mixes up the whole track.  Every digital layer is dropped, the drums fade out abruptly and from there on in the song sounds like it was jammed out in Greenwich Village in 1972, in some smokey ‘blues party’. Getting lost while flowing away to these subtle melodies, horns and string sections became suddenly all too easy. It was such a refreshing change in the song and transported me to this groovy world of Soul and Jazz that Neneh obviously inhabits.

Produced by Neneh Cherry and English musician, Four Tet, ‘Broken Politics’ is said to be a “quieter and more reflective” album than its predecessors. I’m not sure that I completely agree with “quieter”. It’s quite a stanch Jazz album for any uninitiated Jazz newbies out there. It is, however, very reflective. The lyrical content of the whole album brings a plethora of political undertones, social commentaries, and satires and there is definitely a tonne of self-reflection. With song lyrics inspired by the passing of Neneh Cherry’s biological father, musician Ahmadu Jah, the album is honest and emotional. Interestingly, the Woodstock Studio in New York, where ‘Broken Politics’ was recorded, was the same studio which Neneh Cherry’s stepfather, American Jazz musician Don Cherry, had previously used to record his own work in the 1970s. In fact, Neneh Cherry uses samples from the recordings of Ornette Coleman, Pulitzer Prize-winning Jazz saxophonist, which her stepfather had recorded.

‘Broken Politics’ has a real sense of homage to it. Not only to Jazz but to the musical influencers and parental figures in Neneh Cherry’s life that gave her music. The political commentary amidst a great use of rhyme scheme and a very cute, toned singing style is also really entertaining to listen to. The production, on the whole, does seem sparse but perhaps the intention was to focus on the lyrical content and instrumentation, especially with the Jazz sections. It also lacked a touch of mastering that I would have expected a globally recognized singer would pertain to. However, I actually quite like that it sounds raw and unpolished. It almost has a struggling artist vibe to it all, a musical hunger I wouldn’t expect from an artist with over twenty-five years, mainstream musical experience.

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