Sunday 20 January 2013

Night Beds - Ramona

Recording as Night Beds and due to release his debut LP in February on the Dead Oceans label, Winston Yellen seems to have spent the last two years searching for musical inspiration, and then making the very most of it. Despite already walking a musical path with three EPs under his belt, Yellen began feeling that his life had recently grown, "aimless [and] lacking direction." A period of moving from state-to-state and working menial jobs reached its end when a friend pushed him to return to Nashville and get himself back on track. Armed with a loan, he rented an out-of-town house that was previously owned by Johnny Cash and June Carter, and begun to write and record music once again.

The result is 'Country Sleep', an album that seems unable to deny the American roots in which it was conceived. And second single 'Ramona' is a perfect sample of Night Beds' country-inspired indie-pop/rock.

Each verse pleads, "Come on Ramona," with guitar slides and upbeat drums, all of which suddenly fall away at the chorus to isolate a set of vocals laced with a saddening distress. The instruments soon gather round once again to keep the song fighting its cause, until we reach the final glimmers of rekindled love and faith.

"With a heart that always fails,
My love's gone off all the rails,
I'm like a ship without a sail,
Drowning underneath the waves."
(full lyrics:

Compared to the more angst-ridden first single, 'Even If We Try', 'Ramona' has a more positive series of stops on its route. Even so, the emotional diversity remains and is a testament to Yellen's honed writing.


"Drums usually seem to tune themselves"- Levon Helm

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Spark Alaska - Feel The Flowers

It would be easy to spend a lifetime on YouTube finding videos of teenagers-with-guitars, all vying for our attention with their cover versions. It's even easier to make quick judgements about them and assume that they are all cut from the same cloth: more often than not it seems that their persistence and ego is larger than their talent.

Trawling through the Twitter and Tumblr feeds of YouTuber Lorenzo Cook - aka Spark Alaska - you may well assume that he fits the mould of his peers. But whilst his covers are mostly average, it's his original material that deserves considerably more attention.

Made available for free on BandCamp, 'Feel The Flowers' is his most recent offering and certainly his most impressive. With the steady strumming and picking of guitar, glorious vocal harmonies, and tuneful whistles, the first minute comes astonishingly close to harnessing Simon & Garfunkel - and in the best possible way. The song soon spreads its wings a little wider with a defiant chorus that doesn't let itself be entirely restrained by Lorenzo's youth, and the lyrics somehow manage to avoid ever sounding contrived despite the flurry of imagery.

In a just world, 'Feel The Flowers' would be the start of a journey for Spark Alaska; signifying the moment when creativity overtook imitation and success bloomed as a result. Whether Lorenzo is searching for a career in music or not, this newest tune suggests that he has a better chance than many, and it is hoped that he continues to explore his own artistic abilities more regularly for our enjoyment.


"Ruling piano keys is harder than ruling a whole kingdom" - Yazan Haddadin