Tuesday 30 July 2013

Our Krypton Son - Gargantuan

Our Krypton Son's eponymous debut album went down a storm following its release in November last year, showcasing the songwriting talents of man-at-the-helm Chris McConaghy. With a possible new EP rumoured for later this year, third single 'Gargantuan' was released last month to keep us all happy during the interim.

McConaghy's vocals are typically restrained at first, delivering the verses with a low Bowie-esque ease that then parts to give space to a thrilling jump in register and volume for the chorus - a perfect, and smart display of contrast for a song about the immense glories and trials of relationships.

'Gargantuan' is a rousing, thumping crusade driven by an infectious piano-bashing beat, leading us to a final explanation of its march within the last lyrics of the song.

 "And the whole world trembles when my love stomps
 And the asphalt shatters when my love stomps"

A stand-out track from the album, this is a well-chosen single accompanied by a pair of b-sides that flaunt McConaghy's stylistic range: the acoustic and collected 'Bring the Flood', and the Procol Harum-harnessing 'How Long Must I Dream'.

Tumblr: fleasanddiamonds.tumblr.com
Facebook: facebook.com/pages/Our-Krypton-Son/185903978117238
Twitter: twitter.com/Our_Krypton_Son
Label: smalltownamerica.co.uk/artists/our-krypton-son
YouTube: youtube.com/user/OurKryptonSon
SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/chris-mcconaghy

"To stand up on a stage alone with an acoustic guitar requires bravery bordering on heroism. Bordering on insanity" - Richard Thompson

Saturday 27 July 2013

Alisha's Attic - Stay Will U Stay

Comprised of sisters Karen and Shelly Poole, Alisha's Attic were probably one of the first groups that I ever truly embraced: actively searching for all their singles, and repeatedly listening to their music. Their 1996 debut, 'Alisha Rules The World', is still one of my favourite albums and I continue to play it regularly (and not just as a nostalgic attempt to remember when I was a teenager). Soon after their third album in 2001, 'The House We Built', they were sadly dropped by Mercury Records and the duo ceased recording together.

Four years later, I discovered that a fourth self-produced album had been made available by the girls. 'The Attic Vaults 1' (a 'Vaults 2' was apparently planned) was a collection of previously unreleased songs that had never made it onto their previous albums, and so the tracks were put together as a final thank-you to their fans. Needless to say, I bought a copy as quickly as possible and soaked up the "new" music.

The penultimate tune, 'Stay Will U Stay', is the stand-out track for me and definitely deserved to have reached a wider audience, although it is difficult to find a place for it amongst the songs on their three albums. With just piano accompanying the sisters' always-beautiful harmonies, the track feels stripped back and raw, a sound that is complemented fully by the sincere lyrics. Perhaps if it had been included on a previous release then further instrumentation may have been added during production, but I am glad that it has remained as it is: a tender, gorgeous reminder of what Karen and Shelly Poole achieved together.

As with Nik Kershaw's 'So Quiet', 'Stay Will U Stay' is on the list of music I intend to transcribe into a piano score one day.

Since Alisha's Attic, both of the sisters have remained in the music industry: Karen has successfully written for many other musicians whilst Shelly has also continued to record, both as a solo artist and in current band Red Sky July.

Alisha's Attic:

Karen Poole:

Shelly Poole:

"Songwriting's a weird game" - Keith Richards

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Minko - Creature (Songs 5-8)

The second in a planned series of six EPs, 'Creature' follows on from its predecessor 'Sybil of Delphi' and provides the next songs from singer songwriter Minko. Initially exploring electronic music production, she decided a change was in order and moved from the hustle and bustle of London to the relative peace and quiet of Cornwall, where she surrounded herself with acoustic instruments and began to write and record. Over fifty songs were created, and 'Creature' is the collection of songs 5 to 8.

The opening title track is a live recording, featuring Steven Havenhand (late 80's Pulp guitarist) and Nick Duffy (The Lilac Time joint-founder) who provide assistance with guitars. Minko's layered vocals create a wide, spacious sound over the strums and picks, and is particularly enjoyable and evocative during the stretched interjections between verses.

Once the waltzing rhythm begins playing on the Fender Rhodes organ, the second track's title - 'Monsieur Zola's Amazing Carousel' - makes perfect sense: the melodica's involvement only serving to enhance the fairground-esque sound. Lyrically the song discusses how, in modern life, perhaps we have lost sight of life's meaning and have forgotten the many great steps and achievements that have brought us to where we are today. Name-dropping past philosphers, poets and writers, we are brought to the final lines which bring together the words and music beautifully:

 "If 'the child is father of the man',
 What would our ancestors say?
 If Freud and Buddha sat together on the merry-go-round
 And put the brakes on today?"

By contrast, third track 'Child Of Four' is lyrically sparse, but is no less indicative of Minko's often-haunting arrangements. The plink-plunk of the kalimba may continue the sense of innocence that the title suggests, but the rest of the instruments are more concerned with evoking a constant, but subtle, melancholy through a steady stream of repetition. Despite this, the song holds interest throughout until a thumb flicks the final note.

'The Owl Song' finishes the EP mostly as an instrumental, with Minko's voice present in just a few words and "da-da-da"s, but a story is still told nevertheless.

Compared to the previous release, 'Creature' is a darker collection of songs that sounds like it has been carefully nurtured amongst a broad range of musical influences. With her captivating voice and obvious skill at combining instruments to compliment her desired theme, Minko has brought us a mesmerising record.

YouTube: www.youtube.com/felinecreature
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Minko/185304241493861
Twitter: twitter.com/minkomusic
BandCamp: minko.bandcamp.com
SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/minkomusic
Official: minkomusic.wordpress.com/

"All music is folk music. I ain't never heard a horse sing a song." - Louis Armstrong

Sunday 21 July 2013

Lambs & Wolves - Afraid Enough EP

A year since their last release, Lambs & Wolves return with their new EP 'Afraid Enough'. With this latest collection of four tracks the Waldshut, Germany-based fourpiece haven't strayed too far from the sounds of their previous work. The arrangements remain mostly light with a pleasing economy of instrumentation that, when coupled with the hushed and delicate vocals, provide us with a sound of subtle precision that's not often heard.

'Canada' is the stand-out track, quietly building through guitar strums, clarinet, and minimal piano to a glorious final quarter, whilst opener 'July's half-spoken half-sung lyrics provide a smart introduction to Lambs & Wolves' style.

'Lisa's Dream Of Getting Lost' serves us a subdued gleefulness in the drum's rhythm that sits behind a sad story of desperate escape from the past, echoed in the final whispered words. And final song 'The Fall', though the shortest of the tracks, eases us to the end of the EP with peaks and troughs of vocal harmony, piano, and clarinet.

'Afraid Enough', with its four songs of beautiful acoustic folk-pop, shows us a band that have found their style, and are now well into perfecting it.

Bandcamp: lambswolves.bandcamp.com
Facebook: facebook.com/lambsandwolves

"I look at my clarinet sometimes and I think, I wonder what's going to come out of there tonight? You never know." - Acker Bilk