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Track Review

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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SINGLE REVIEW: Trudy and the Romance – ‘The Original Doo-Wop Spacemen’

WORDS BY: TOM BRANFOOT

Having recently announced that their debut album Sandman will be released on May 24th, Liverpudlian mutant rockers Trudy and the Romance treat our undeserving ears with yet another ice-cream float of doo-wop with a scoop of punk. 

The Original Doo-Wop Spacemen is a cinematic wall of sound, with nods to 40’s Disney flicks (check their cover of Baby Mine from Dumbo) and 50s acts such as The Teddy Bears or Dion & The Belmonts. All their nostalgic influence being stated, they also deliver a heavy, crushed guitar tone akin to Iceage (especially their latest single Broken Hours) and vocals in the same league as King Krule, as well as thick, full bass tones and Phil Spector-esque drums. 

 

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Howdy and Goodbye Austin, Texas. Forever in our hearts @sxsw Thank y’all for watchin’ 💋

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The vocals on Doo-Wop Spacemen are subdued in comparison to previous songs such as the quivering impetus of My Baby’s Gone Away. More like crooning to the girl next door as opposed to hollering at an ex-beau. Trudy always excel themselves in backing vocal duties and these are as blissfully reverb-soaked as ever, provided in part by soulful existentialist Brad stank, even complete with a splattering of schoo-bop-doo-wop’s. This song gives an indication the album may contain a self-reflexive narrative throughout.

Trudy are an amalgamated act who never fail to disappoint with each release. With this new single they appear to have refined their sound to a self-assured and recognisable niche, sounding much more mature and considerably different to most formulaic acts in the indie scene at the minute. Cinematic and lush, any one of their ditties wouldn’t seem out of place being lip-synced by Dean Stockwell in Blue Velvet by David Lynch.

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SINGLE RELEASE: Squid – ‘Houseplants’

WORDS BY: KANE MARTIN

“To hell with poverty, let’s get drunk on cheap wine” bemoaned Leeds monoliths of Post-Punk Funk, Gang of Four in 1978. With the latest Brexit statistics of meat and cheese prices skyrocketing but wine being okay. It’s a nihilistic response to a cultural crisis, but with the release of Squid’s latest single Houseplants we’re summoned to have a bit of a fucking boogie, chugging down lambrini to a motoric beat whilst everything turns to toss. 

 

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SAFE. @sxsw

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Houseplants, a follow up to the bands Dan Carey produced hyperventilating instant classic The Dial furthers the already established ironic yet earnest explorations in tight funk rhythms, ear-worming repetition and splashes of post-rock textures. Yet this time around we’re welcomed with more immediacy and we’re lauded into the groove that smacks your jaw like an on-time train from Northern Rail. This train that’s just hit you in the face we can imagine that the passengers look something akin to the lost souls in a Hieronymus Bosch painting except they’re reading all Sunday Telegraphs TV times supplement, updating their linkedin profiles and sorting out cocaine for the weekend whilst bleeding blue and yellow goo from their pours without realising it. 

 Absurd right? Well as is the genius of Squid. With Houseplants we see a claustrophobic attack on middle England, we as listeners are attacked with the unfortunate pedestrian concerns that we haunt ourselves with daily I.e. careering, buying a house, children’s television. Whilst the familiar is screamed at you by the band’s lead vocalist / drummer Ollie Judge, you begin to realise just how absurd the whole thing is.

It’s cruel optimism and the results of ongoing destruction of our souls daily by the neo-liberal agendas beyond our control set to a pulsing beat and infectious groove. It’s brilliant and exactly what we need right now it such times of divisions. Frustrations we can dance to. Squid seem to hold similar lyrical and sonic concerns to many of this new emerging sound of rhythm fuelled post punk (black midi, Handle, N0v3l) and with Houseplants, another jewel is added to this tapestry of militant post-funk resistance. Viva La Squid!      

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SINGLE RELEASE: FKJ – ‘Leave My Home’

WORDS BY: MWIKA BULAYA

Leave My Home is the brand new single released early this month as an ode to changing your surroundings for something new. The single isn’t worlds away from French Kiwi Juice’s (FKJ) previous works, prior fans of the artist should expect the same attention to detail that has been given to his other projects.

The Tadow singer references how he has to change his surroundings after being in the same place for so long. The ascending vocals may be representative of this journey beginning at one place that is comfortable but reaching another that is much more fulfilling. The French multi-instrumentalist did not disappoint with this track. A simple yet faultless production and fusions of jazz and electronica take centre stage to create a piece that is perfect for any mood.

 

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🙏🏻 Paris

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Much of the single is focused on the music as many of the lyrics are repeated, with little distinction between the verse and hook. Yet, this doesn’t seem to matter so much as the vocal harmonies that run throughout the track hold their own. In true FKJ style, the track transcends you to a place of utter relaxation where you can free your mind of all worries for the next 4 minutes.

Honourable mentions of this brand new single have to go to the steady percussion, soothing bass and the guitar solo that demands to be heard. Vincent Fenton, better known under the moniker of FKJ, has kept to his reputation of making music that you can vibe to alone or with friends, and this single is no different.

With this new single, FKJ shows no sign of slowing down. The 29-year-old is reinventing the music scene, blending your favourite genres into one that only he has found the key to. The French-artist will be making another appearance in the UK this year at Lovebox festival which is sure to be unforgettable.

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SINGLE RELEASE: Loyle Carner- ‘Loose Ends’ (Feat Jorja Smith)

WORDS BY: MATTY PYWELL

Loyle Carner‘s debut album Yesterday’s Gone was a fantastic record that established Carner as one of the UK’s most intriguing rappers. He writes biographical and often poignant lyrics which take an introspective look in to his life. His flows are at a slower pace than other MC’s, as if he’s taking as much time as possible to choose the perfect word, or the perfect line to best describe a thought, observation or moment.

On his latest single, Loose Ends, Loyle has enlisted the help of Jorja Smith, who recently won the Brit Award for ‘British Female Solo Artist’ after her critically acclaimed debut album, Lost & Found. The track starts with Smith’s typically striking vocals, she has a habit of making her high notes seem effortless. There’s a remorseful and emotive feeling to the song, created by the downcast piano notes and the simplistic, rhythmic drumming track. Loyle‘s vocals take centre stage, he uses his conventional, thoughtful flow, paced expertly by his habitual “uh’s”, which are little bits of vocalisation he uses to help space out the lyrics.

The track sees Loyle speak about some of the downsides of his success, which has seen him fly all over the world, but means that he hasn’t been able to keep up with friends and loved ones as well as he’d like. “I feel ashamed, I know there ain’t no savin’ away. They went astray, I went to Australia, so what am I supposed to say to ’em?” Overall, Loose Ends is a fantastic blend or soul and rap. It’s brought together two of the UK’s finest young talents and is one hell of a powerful match. This is the third single Carner has released in the last five months, and he’s heading out on tour next month, which is hopefully a sign that he will be releasing a follow-up to Yesterday’s Gone soon.

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SINGLE RELEASE: Blue Bendy – ‘Closing Sound’

WORDS BY: TOM BRANFOOT

Closing Sound is an amalgamated oeuvre, halfway between a late night jazz fusion orchestra and a New York no wave song. Blue Bendy are a relatively new sextet from South London (one could only imagine how hard it is to coordinate schedules). Opposing the fast-paced, vulgar imitation of the current South London scene, Blue Bendy appear to be gifting unto us a different perspective from The Wasteland. Having done the rounds at South London’s obligatory The Old Blue Last and The Five Bells as well as a magnetic show at Manchester’s own institution Gullivers (for the launch of Yellow Thursdays zine), at which I also performed, Blue Bendy have been on the radar but also careful enough to not release any music, an eagerness that lets many new bands down.

With the introduction of this debut single sounding like a lo-fi hip hop interlude, the song constantly evades clear definition. Front man Arthur Nolan decorates the desolate jazz-punk orchestration with gloriously dismal poetic crooning – think Iceage, Horsey, King Krule – counterpointed by keyboard player Olivia Morgan’s dissonant vocals, in a dystopian Nancy & Lee type fashion. 


Closing Sound is a song where every instrument has its place, autonomous yet providing the same wave of energy to propel the song forward. Angular bass lines and janky guitar riffs sit below the light and seemingly hopeful keyboard motif in the latter half. Trapped under the cacophonous whooshing and feedback, turning the wheel towards its logical but untimely end – as Nolan mutters some inaudible proverb. It’s a bleak and untameable song, clearly coloured by London itself, the gurgling, inescapable black mass. Whilst hard to define, it doesn’t beg the need to be defined, it’s a black cloud of collisions with a crack in the sky and an orange street light glowing. 

Closing Sound by Blue Bendy was released by London record label Permanent Creeps on 22/02/19.

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SINGLE REVIEW: Sundara Karma – Little Smart Houses

WORDS BY: CALLUM MITCHELL-SIMON

Sundara Karma started out from humble beginnings, formed in 2011 as a high school band in Reading. They releasing their debut singles via Soundcloud, before several years spent developing their sound, releasing the odd EP, and touring alongside the likes of Wolf Alice. They came on leaps and bounds upon the release of their 2017 debut album Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect, which featured huge singles She Said, Olympia and Happy Family.  They’re set for bigger things in 2019, with a new album Ulfilas’ Alphabet due on March 1st on Chess Club/RCA, and a headline slot at Live At Leeds in May, preceded by a huge headline UK tour in April.

 

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With their spiky guitar riffs and heavily stylised art-rock leanings, they bring to mind a hungry young Franz Ferdinand or Foals. The Guardian even compared them to the likes of U2 and Arcade Fire. A daunting comparison maybe, but these guys seems to understand this crazy old rock and roll game – they dress up and play their respective parts with aplomb, lead singer Oscar “Lulu” Pollock in particular doing his utmost to channel a modern-day Bowie (this writer came close to seeing them live in 2017 at Y-Not Festival, but that turned out to be the fateful year that the whole thing was rained off).

Their return is heralded by new track Little Smart Houses. Whilst their debut was itself a very fine record, it, by and large, stuck to a set palate of influences, like a band finding their feet. This time around they appear much more confident to stretch out their sound. This is bolstered with some inspired 80’s touches, such as Pollock‘s heavily indebted Duran Duran-esque vocal inflections. A bouncy, guitar-led intro is abruptly halted by some stop-start vocals, before a wave of shimmering electronics bridge into a rousing chorus. Pollock sings of yearning for a broadening spiritual awareness “free yourself and you will conceive, a life beyond your wildest dreams”, and the habits we inflict on ourselves to prevent us from achieving this “We’ll stay inside because we’re torn and dumb, kept warm in little smart houses”.

It’s a bright, technicolor slab of indie-pop, with slick, polished production. It’s a confident artistic step forward, likely to keep the returning fans happy, whilst winning over many more new ones in the process.

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SINGLE RELEASE: EKKAH – ‘JUST A THING’

WORDS BY: EMMA DAVIDSON

The queens of the modern day disco revival Ekkah have hit us with newest track Just A Thing, a certified heartbreaking, hypnotic dance floor filler doused in flirtatious funk just in time to rescue any kind of valentines disaster. Of course, the track has that distinctive sparkling synth sound that Ekkah so flawlessly fixate but this time it develops into a millennial pop classic with a slapped bass sound worthy of featuring on a Grandmaster Flash mix. 

 

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Shot something very nice yesterday, watch this space…

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Just A Thing follows behind the bands latest release Homesick that retains that tight, indie disco sound. Rebekah Pennington and Rebecca Wilson have once again established themselves again as the hottest stars on the newly inviting sequin laden skyline. The track explores the expectations we have in love. It tells us It’s okay not to fall in love and to love yourself before anything else, a stern message that preempts anything too overwhelming.

Their glittering, hopeful music is so desperately needed during these bleak early months of the year in which we’re all lacking our high levels of vitamin D and kicking ourselves for not sticking to that new years resolution that tried to stop us gathering an abundance of fridge cheese. Just A Thing is the glimmer of hope and boogie inducing spring-time song that paints a glowing smile across your face and depicts that bit of sunlight we’ve all been craving. Ekkah are that friend you need that grabs you by the hand and drags you to the pub for a few beers and some Friday night karaoke and there is no doubt that Just A Thing will be your next drunken slur into the microphone.

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TRACK RELEASE: Albert Hammond Jr. – ‘Fast Times’

WORDS BY JAY PLENT    PHOTOS BY MANC WANDERER

In the wake of his previous album FRANCIS TROUBLE, Albert Hammond Jr. has followed up with a new cut, FAST TIMES. Accompanied by a light-hearted wilderness-based video, it seems that there’s little intention by the artist to take the track too seriously, encouraging us to do the same. 

The immediacy of the start is great. You could easily drop FAST TIMES into any road trip playlist and find it fitting snugly, and given the amount of car coverage in the lyric video, that’s probably a very conscious decision on Albert Hammond Jr.’s part. Though largely unassuming, the song has a peppy upbeat mood to it, a cheery, throwaway bit of indie pop that’s jumpable, but not life-changing. As is par for the course with his work, there are very heavy Strokes vibe ongoing; the rough and ready feel could’ve been ripped straight out of Comedown Machine, as could the to-and-fro guitar and bass interplay.

Albert Hammond Jr.’s usual jerky guitar work is on point, and the high octane crunchy lead guitar feels like a voice all of its own. Some subtle backing vocals add a little depth, as do some clicks of percussion the odd electronic sample. However, as on the nose, as his lyrics are usually, this is a bit of a bludgeoning. Lines like “school’s out, found a ride, saw some friends, we got high, Friday night”, maybe deliberately simplistic, but come across as lazy, un-inventive and frankly boring.

Albert Hammond Jr. sounds like every kid in school who does nothing but talk about how much weed they did at the weekend, with little but borrowed personality from more interesting people to get by on. The conclusion, with its sliding, highly revered guitar solo is by far the most interesting inclusion; it polishes off the track nicely. Still refusing to embrace much beyond the conventional band layout, Albert Hammond Jr. continues to pump out pleasant but unmemorable tunes. People craving experimentation or boundary-pushing will find no such excitement in FAST TIMES.

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