Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Anna Burch

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Released from Heavenly Recordings on Friday 2nd March in the UK, Detroit based singer/songwriter Anna Burch's debut album Quit The Curse.

Anna Burch, who once co-fronted Failed Flowers, has assembled a collection of solo material which has come to fruition on this album which has been engineered by Collin Dupuis (Lana Del Ray, Angel Olsen) to push home the energy of the songs to a more crystallised clarity.

The songs on the surface may seem summery and light, yet they harbour darker themes underneath from the absent love in album lover '2 Cool 2 Care' and the paranoid 'Asking 4 A Friend'; the album has been served by video promos that support this dreamy vibe as seen in 'Tea-Soaked Letter':

Yet this should not take away from the great vocal work Burch utilises here, on a par with the range exhibited say by St. Vincent and even the emotional outpouring of one of her idols, Fiona Apple.

Lately, a lot of female musicians have taken this insular route of self-introspection to garner lyrics (Jessica Lea Mayfield) yet paint them with bright colours for earworm hooks and head-nodding melodies. 

Whilst someone like Ezra Furman (whom Burch is supporting on tour in the US) sings about rage and angst from a personal identification perspective under a Trump administration; Burch sings about women rightly trying to find a place in the world and how the balance of acceptance, finding love and finding a voice goes hand in hand - Burch does it with attitude and an electric guitar.

Burch is touring the UK in May:
Sunday 6th May - Manchester - Sounds from the Other City
Monday 7th May - Birmingham - Hare & Hounds
Tuesday 8th May - Glasgow - The Hug & Pint
Wednesday 9th May - London - Old Blue Last
Before appearing at the End of the Road Festival (30th August - 2nd September)

Quit The Curse is out from Heavenly Recordings on Friday 2nd March.
My thanks to One Beat PR for the listening opportunity.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Olden Yolk

Olden Yolk release their self-titled debut album via Trouble in Mind records on February 23rd

The group are a New York based group led by songwriters, vocalists and multi-instrumentalists; Shane Butler and Caity Shaffer.  The band have a penchant for dystopian folk, abstract poeticisim and rhythms that can make you feel warm on a winters night and chill in the balmy summer.

The interwoven vocals of Butler and Shaffer combine to make at times bewitching compositions such as 'Common Ground' that enrich the whole album, it makes for a remarkably relevant record but one not ashamed of the bands that came before them from the harmony rich Crosby, Stills and Nash to the contemporary The Honeymoon and Joy Zipper. Try and not listen to that track and feel like you've been whisked away to another plain.

From the swooning 'Gamblers on the Dime' to the epic album closer 'Takes One to Know One' there is something for everyone here; an album full of abstraction but based around the semblance of union and collaboration touching upon themes of identity and memory. While Butler takes many vocal leads, Shaffer shows some good range on her leads on 'Vital Sign' and '

Olden Yolk is released from Trouble in Mind records on Friday 23rd February

My thanks to One Beat Digital PR for the audio link.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Night Flowers 'Wild Notion' Album preview

Following years of single tracks and EP releases the London quintet, Night Flowers are pleased to announce the release of their debut album Wild Notion on Friday 13th April from Dirty Bingo Records.

Two weeks ago, saw the release of lead single 'Losing the Light' which showcased the shimmering transatlantic pop the band are slowly becoming renowned for. On today's album release news, they share a video for new single 'Cruel Wind' the last track on the album. Epic in sound and scope, the video shows lead singer Sophia Pettit putting astronauts through their paces in training to reach for the moon; the video by film-making duo James Doherty and Laura Whittell is a mixture of ingenuity, archive footage and vision.

This goes hand in hand with the London dream poppers, who have been championed by Pitchfork and the NME, whilst featuring on shows by John Kennedy, Steve Lamacq and Radcliffe and Maconie.

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The 'Cruel Wind' single can be purchased online here:  The song is a lovely sounding single which is a great example of the band's sunshine tinged music with sun tinged guitars, exhilarating compositions and goosepimply vocals.  As much as anything, it shows a band dealing with the past and embracing the future ahead of them with this album release.

Currently the band have one live show on Friday 27th April at The Lexington, London for the album launch which will be followed by various festival appearances across the summer.

Follow the band on twitter: @Night_Flowers_

Thoughts on McMafia

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The BBC’s production is not ground breaking, it is not the greatest thing you have ever seen – in fact we have seen something like it before The Night Manager starring Tom Hiddleston for one. Yet there is a magnetism and charisma about the entire production, not so much about being proud of itself but you know you are watching a programme that is top quality from acting to writing to care of location scouting to costume design.

Undoubtedly, the show rests on the still relatively young shoulders of James Norton, who gets the leading role as Alex Godman – the hedge fund manager who is a legitimate businessman, yet the son of a Russian family that had to leave the motherland following a turf war involving a rival gang.

The necessity of giving Alex an ambiguous surname is one that works into the hands of the viewer – is Alex a good man or merely a God amongst men – he must follow an unfamiliar path for BBC protagonists and one more familiar to American crime shows; like Walter White, he is a good or nice man to begin with, but our hero must endure some pain and suffering changing his natural persona of one from wholesomeness to one of malevolence.
Alex goes through traumas of becoming distant from his fiancĂ©e, forcing her to leave the house they share; he talks more Russian as the season progresses (Ep. 6) as he slowly morphs into the head of the household as his father becomes more frail and reliant on alcohol.  

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While the production is in love with the cities it visits from the sub-continental warmth of India to the glamour of Israel; you also admire the coldness of Eastern Europe of Prague and Moscow; to the sheen of West London.  The show makes great pains to say this series is as much about the attachment to family as our attachment to money and power; money can come and go, yet family will remain and the ties that bind will be stronger than bonds in banks. 

Vadim (Merab Ninidze - brilliant) struggles with the daughter wanting to leave Russia for education, they are filmed joined at the hip on long walks mirroring Alex and Rebecca’s union – Benes (the Czech fixer) tells Alex they will attack the one you love most for Alex this is Rebecca and for Vadim it is his daughter; the loss of one will break the other.  Harm, though, still hits Rebecca despite Alex’s attempts to remove her from the frame.

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The ending of the series, left this viewer, in a state of part confusion, part frustration as the series morphed from hopefully a standalone series of unique stature to one that is merely the beginning of another series with hallmarks of The Godfather coming to the fore; with Alex becoming a Michael Corleone surrogate and Rebecca very much the Kay Adams/Diane Keaton role; one that may or may not keep Alex grounded in reality as he becomes the head of a new Mafia organisation.

The series makes this succinct point; money makes the world go round - there will be human cost and tragedy throughout; but the old traditional way of doing 'mafia' business has changed in this new technological age, computers and business acumen hold the key to breaking new ground in new territories and regions.  Someone will die and someone will profit from such deaths.

McMafia is available on the BBC iPlayer now and on DVD for Home Entertainment to keep

Thursday, 8 February 2018

There's Bad, then there's Moussa

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It seems like every time I go to Wembley to watch my beloved Tottenham Hotspur, I feel compelled to write a blog. This is good for thinking and putting thoughts down on paper. When I wrote before Christmas in criticism of Brighton's negative restrictive play in defeat, unfortunately this piece is again going to be in the negative.

However, it is not a negative piece about the FA Cup losing its lustre - seeing 7000 Newport County fans travel to London on a freezing evening shows that the competition will never lose appeal in the lower leagues because of days like this; it is not negative about Pochettino's team selection - this was necessary because of the forthcoming North London Derby three days away, it was correct to give Lloris, Vertonghen, Dier, Dembele a complete night off with the insurance policy of Eriksen, Alli and Kane on the bench.

No, this piece is about quite possibly the worst player I have ever seen wear a Tottenham Hotspur shirt which in watching the team for nearly 30 years I feel is quite a statement. I have seen some bad players - of varying positions and talent. Some could not step up to expectation and got found out (Neil Sullivan), some were not worth the exorbitant transfer fee (Sergei Rebrov/Dean Richards), some were just not good but showed endeavour (David Tuttle/Stuart Nethercott), some could be called donkeys but at least they produced (Gary Doherty) but never have we bared witness to a player of such staggering ineptness and cringe-inducing confidence. This player is more capable of passing the ball out of play than passing to a team-mate.

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The player's name is Moussa Sissoko. The man who was paramount in France's gallop to the European Championship final in 2016, who put this same Tottenham side to the sword in a swashbuckling 5-1 defeat on the last day of the 2015/16 season in his last game for Newcastle United.

When playing for Newcastle, Sissoko played off the right wing and could run at the defence whilst dribbling at speed linking up with a front man effectively. This has not translated to the Spurs side which has featured numerous occasions of wasteful possession, misplaced passes and skewed shots.  I have seen him unable to pass to a team-mate from three yards away, he runs into defenders thinking he can go through them like Superman however his feet are like two blocks of kryptonite when in possession.  He runs ungainly, like a floppy limbed hurdler who has hit the penultimate obstacle in a 110m hurdle race falling unelegantly for the line and still landing five metres short of the finishing line.

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Perhaps as a club we were guilty of signing a player who made our team look stupid on a bad day; he is capable of good days just not when wearing white.  Perhaps he is not capable of succinct effective passing in a team used to counter-attacking at pace and precision.

It is a shame that this piece has to be written but when fellow supporters and viewers, keep uttering 'He's bad isn't he', 'He's awful' and words such as embarrassing are thrown about for a professional footballer it is important people are told. Sissoko will not (hopefully) be on the bench on Saturday afternoon, mostly because we have better players who will be better options.

Pochettino rung the changes last night to give players a breather from the workload of a season with continued involvement within three competitions; you trust that he will give the spectators a breather from Sissoko on Saturday.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Ezra Furman 'Transangelic Exodus'

Part concept record, part novel, part tale of America in this Trump-era Presidency; the song is a great example of the album on a whole - catchy hook, erstwhile lyrics and a yearning for a better world full of hope despite the anxiety with the current climate, as Furman himself vouches:
“What’s essential is the mood - paranoid, authoritarian, the way certain people are stigmatised. It’s a theme in American life right now, and other so-called democracies.”

Full of intensity but paired with a bracing honesty that has been missing from recent rock records that focus on nostalgia and catchiness, Furman along with his backing band The Visions, may well be able to breakthrough to the mainstream - following critical acclaim for 2015's 'Perpetual Motion People' - by making the first true rock and roll artefact of the Trump administration.

There is a swell of anger running throughout the album, an undercurrent of rage at how minorities are being misunderstood or shunned to the sidelines by the 1%-ers in power.  This comes across in the lead single 'Suck the Blood from my Wound' but there remains the need to be honest with yourself and your own being, Furman coming to terms with his sexuality 'Compulsive Liar' and the catchy 'No Place' where the yearning for acceptance is paramount.

Following on from minor or smaller albums, this is Furman's break for the mainstream by making his most personal open record to date.

Transangelic Exodus is out from Bella Union records this Friday. Furman is doing a small selection of sold-out shows in the UK this month, followed by a bigger arena tour including the Brixton Academy in May of this year.

Monday, 5 February 2018

The Coffin Path

Katherine Clements novel The Coffin Path is released in Hardback/eBook from Headline on 8th February

FFO of The Woman in Black, The Innocents, Lady Macbeth

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When you read books to review them for hits on your blog, you come across several different types of tomes.  You have those you feel you can connect with due to a resemblance to your favourite authors (Lee Child) or a genre such as thriller and crime. You get sucked into reading books of the same ilk one after another - I am forever indebted for the opportunity to review Streets of Darkness, Ragdoll, Sirens in quick succession. Those novels showed me that the genre of crime and urban noir is now on an equal footing with the tremendous success of Scandanavian Noir.

You also cross paths with books you take a risk on, those you are not familiar with and do not normally seek yourselves from shelves.  The Coffin Path is one of those books; it wears its influences on its cover - dark, mysterious, gothic - a novel stripped from the drafts of the Bronte sisters where the combination of God-fearing individuals compete against a foreboding landscape full of mist and fear, along with prophetic fallacies galore.

Mercy Booth is our heroine, the daughter of the owner of Scarcross Hall the house on the old titular pathway where the word is something evil lives.  The Hall is her home and where she wants to reside, yet small things start to go awry especially the three ancient coins missing from her elderly father's study. Then the stranger appears.

This stranger Ellis Ferreby, is cut from the same cloth as Mr. Rochester - that brooding embodiment of masculinity who wanders the moors searching solace and purpose - yet a man who knows what is right and wrong, can he provide purpose to Ms. Booth also.

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Author Katherine Clements

As well as a ghost story that keeps you on your toes, it is also a cleverly conceived story of female empowerment of a woman learning about herself in a cold world:

' my younger years I would have named Father my closest friend, but there's no one in this world knows the whole of me. I've shared my pains with God alone. I've whispered to the wind, let the rain take my tears, dried my eyes on the fleeces of my flock and never let anyone see how I've felt the lack of a true friend.  I have not dwelled upon my loneliness. I never allowed it: I made my choice and must live by it.  But the trials of these last months have stirred a craving I thought long dead.'

This is an amazing evocation of love blossoming inside a young woman she thought dormant, and it has stuck with me.  The use of landscape to evoke a distant characteristic trait makes her a suitable companion for the man who walks the moors alone happily.

Clements has done wonders to create a distinctive tone and atmosphere of novel that has something for everyone, and whilst this reader found it tough at first, if you stick with it like this reader, you can gain something surprising from it.

The Coffin Path is released from Headline on Thursday 8th February.