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Matthew Pywell

EP RELEASE: ‘King Of The Dudes’ – Sunflower Bean

WORDS: MATTHEW PYWELL    PHOTO: MANC WANDERER

New York! New York! One of the greatest cities on the planet, a cultural hub and more importantly the birthplace of so many great artists and bands. New York isn’t just a place where some bands were formed, New York has its own style, its own attitude. Responsible for artists such as Blondie, The Velvet Underground, The New York Dolls and The Strokes. Sunflower Bean are helping to carry the torch, passed over by those before, no more so than on their latest EP ‘King Of The Dudes‘.

King Of The Dudes feels like an ode to those that came before. The title track explodes into life just like the soda can on the EP’s cover art, singer Julia Cumming has the fierce, untamed swagger and determination in her voice, just as Debbie Harry before her. She sings of being a leader of men, not by choice but by circumstance. The second track, Come For Me, is a pretty obvious innuendo which details a night for Julia where she’s, “looking for some handsome distraction”. The guitar riffs take in the influence of disco, conjuring up thoughts of flares, vibrant oranges, and fluorescent greens.

On Fear City, riffs rise and fall to constant crescendos, before erupting into Julia’s soaring vocals on the chorus. There are so many good guitar hooks on the track, particularly in the last third, it feels as if they’re fully freed from chains and let loose. The concluding track, The Big One sees the band retreating into the gritty, cataclysmic realms of punk. It has the feeling of a song crafted out of expression rather than methodology, a sweet release of anarchic creative freedom, reminiscent of bands like The New York Dolls.

On King Of The Dudes, Sunflower Bean have taken hold of the fabled style of New York band’s past. With some glorious rock hooks and a take-no-prisoners attitude. While there’s not anything particularly innovative with what Sunflower Bean have done, they do their city justice by representing their own interpretation of rock, punk and disco elements from the ’70s/’80s.

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SINGLE RELEASE: Team Picture – ‘Bedroom Genius’

WORDS BY MATTHEW PYWELL

Leeds-based six-piece, Team Picture are back with their latest single, ‘Bedroom Genius’, featuring the B-side ‘Clone You’. The band’s first release since their mini-album ‘Recital’, which was released last June. ‘Recital’ experimented with synth-pop and indie rock influences, but ‘Bedroom Genius’ sees the group take a slightly different direction.

You can’t really say that Team Picture can be tied down to one genre, the group seem to be constantly camouflaging themselves in a new sound. ‘Bedroom Genius’ is apocalyptic post-punk at its finest, with riffs that are covered in a layer of muck and cut through you like granite. The lyrics tell a story of an introvert who keeps them-self to themselves and shy away in their bedroom away from the world. It does allude to the “bedroom genius” being an internet troll. The one constant throughout the track is the omnipresent bass line, always there like a little devil on your shoulder. The nihilistic vocal delivery is a staple of the post-punk genre and is ultimately what gives the song its apocalyptic atmosphere.

‘Clone You’ on the other-hand is quite a contrast. The gritty riffs of the last track are replaced by an ambient synthesiser to create an ethereal shimmer over the song. The same verses are repeated but by the different members of the band, as if they’re in a symbiotic relationship. The latter stages of the track offer up lazer beam like static which cannonballs around before eventually giving way to let the track mellow out. I really enjoyed ‘Bedroom Genius’, I thought it was an interesting progression for the group and added another feather to their cap. I must admit though, that I found ‘Clone You’ to be a bit disappointing, although it does have an enjoyable ambience it doesn’t really have a soundscape that stands out and I feel like Team Picture failed to capitalise on the slightly morbid fun of ‘Bedroom Genius’.

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EP RELEASE: Grace Carter – ‘Why Her Not Me’

WORDS: MATTHEW PYWELL        PHOTO: SHOT BY PHOX

Why Her Not Me is a record steeped in tragedy. Brighton based singer-songwriter Grace Carter draws on personal experience to create deep and impactful RnB ballads on her first EP release, which bookended a great year for the artist. Signed to Polydor Records and boasting a voice which has all the hallmarks of influences such as Lauryn Hill, the future looks bright for Grace Carter.

Why Her Not Me, is the question Carter found herself asking after finding out at age 18 that her estranged father had left her mother for someone else. This song was written on the day she received that news and it shows, her vocals express such hurt and sorrow, that it feels like a kick in the groin, you may need a long shower and have to adopt the fetal position after listening to this one. It’s a stunning single that sets the tone for the rest of this EP. The second track Silence is very similar to the first track and rides off the back of Why Her Not Me’s emotional wave. It’s a little bit too similar to stand out on the EP.

Silhouette is a beautifully haunting track, where Carter’s vocal high notes linger in the air and float around an echo chamber of soul. In terms of lyricism, Carter has a thing for creating emotionally anthemic chorus’, “There’s a fire in your eyes when you’re holding a cigarette, but you won’t hold me, no you don’t hold me. You keep blowing smoke till you fade like a cigarette”. That part of the chorus alludes to her relationship with her father, a reoccurring theme throughout the EP, which becomes more of a testimony/summary about how growing up with a single parent affected her and made her the person she is.

For Ashes, Carter worked with legendary producer Mike Dean (Frank Ocean, Kanye West) and this track is a little bit different stylistically to the rest of the EP. Carter’s vocals are still at the forefront but instrumentally, there’s a more electronic element. The piano is taken away and replaced by a backing track with a beat-driven drumming pattern and there are some synthetic effects which sound like ghosts whispering in the background. The final track of the EP, Half Of You (Demo) sees the themes of the EP come full circle. Until now, Grace was reflecting on how her dad leaving affected her life but Half Of you sees her rising triumphantly from the ashes of that relationship, “Cause you’re the one who’s lonely, I know you’ll be calling on me now I’m somebody. The best thing that you’ll never have”. It creates a really satisfying narrative for the EP.

Grace Carter has put down a marker with her first EP. She’s presented us with some absolutely stunning vocalisation and some fantastic lyricism. The narrative over the seven tracks is really interesting, it’s nice to see Grace grow from a place of frustration and anger to a place of acceptance and renewal at the end. You could say that instrumentally, the piano-driven tracks can be a little bit similar and maybe a couple of them should be a bit more distinguished from one another, but in the context of the EP she just about gets away with it. This is a pretty firm stepping stone to greater things for Grace Carter.

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