Pop, Prog-Rock, Singer-songwriter

Steven Wilson- “To the Bone” Review

Despite a career spanning more than 30 years, you probably don’t know who Steven Wilson is. Described by The Daily Telegraph as “the most successful British artist you’ve never heard of”, he rose to relative prominence as frontman of the band Porcupine Tree, as well as working with a plethora of storied bands playing prog or off-kilter pop, from King Crimson to Tears for Fears. However, the cover of “To the Bone”, his fifth solo album (although he has produced endless work through other names and projects) implies a literal and figurative stripping down. Rather than the studiedly moody Porcupine Tree album covers, here a shirtless Wilson is simply lit blue against a red backdrop in a repudiation of his previous tetchiness about publicity.

In some ways, “To the Bone” does seem to amalgamate all his divergent creations and influences: for instance, in dazzling highlight “Refuge” there are echoes of Rush in Wilson’s soft vocals—Geddy Lee but less shrill—or perhaps Tool in the mechanised, vaguely Eastern clatter. However, “Permanating” is weirdly reminiscent of ABBA at times, illuminating an underbelly of pure pop that intermittently surfaces throughout “To the Bone”. The album also strays into fleet-footed metal at times in the maniacal, jazzy riffing that concludes “Detonation”, or the trebley bite of “People Who Eat Darkness”, whose riff’s similarity to that of Metallica’s “The Memory Remains” is difficult to ignore.

However, this constant genre-hopping proves surprisingly stylistically durable. Even the broody Depeche Mode affectations of “Song of I” dovetail into typically maximalist string swells, snapping the song cleanly into the album’s track listing. The exception to this rule is the arpeggiated restraint of “Blank Tapes”, whose resemblance to Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” isn’t too tenuous given Wilson’s prog credentials. The track is a welcome avenue of quiet prettiness, coming off more like “Ghost”-era Devin Townsend than the glittering bombast of “The Same Asylum as Before”, which balloons from tastefully bluesy soloing into a scalding climax somewhere between A Perfect Circle and The Chameleons.

However, despite the musical smorgasbord Wilson unveils, his undeniable technical skill sometimes struggles to gloss over a dearth of emotional engagement. The album’s lyrical opacity occasionally gives way to bland sloganeering: “I float above the stars, and I feel the rush of love” he gaudily declares on “Nowhere Now”. Nonetheless, “To the Bone” is largely carried by its musicianship, which is thankfully and necessarily excellent. Wilson’s virtuosity electrifies the album, providing it with its integral heft and invention. However, it is maybe this slightly alienating reliance upon technical ability that keeps Steven Wilson as “the most successful British artist you’ve never heard of”. Or then again, maybe he just likes it better that way. CO

B+

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0dLypToLzE

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Pop

Brian Wilson- Live Review

In Newcastle’s Times Square—it struggles to compete with its American counterpart, but it makes do—a stage has been assembled and hastily barricaded off. A drizzly enclave in the North East is a strangely incongruous place to see Brian Wilson in the flesh, given that in the popular imagination he is virtually indivisible from the California he rhapsodizes about in his work, but seeing him at all in old age is surprising. His tragically comprehensive wringing out in the 70s and 80s—drug addiction, mental illness, creative roadblocks: the works—has thankfully mellowed into more peaceful, productive twilight years, and his current tour is a mammoth farewell hike that he’s already 17 months into.

Aureoled beneath deathly white lights, Wilson himself cuts an almost spectral figure onstage: a softer jaw and greyer thatch than the tanned boy-next-door of the public consciousness, but still recognisably the same. At 75 he is shaky vocally, often slurring or garbling his parts, but he is carried by the wonderfully precise harmonies of his band. He remains a relatively remote presence, engaging in brief and clearly scripted audience banter and leaving the rest to his musicians, but there is a pervasive sense that the crowd is there to exalt him regardless.

Indeed, there is a sharp delineation in perceptions of the Beach Boys between the casual fans, who adhere to the general perception of the band as a kitschy, surfy novelty, and the more hardcore cadre to whom Wilson is a quasi-mythical misunderstood, tormented genius. This crowd fall firmly into the latter camp, papering over the cracks in Wilson’s voice with warm enthusiasm: as the show opens with the irresistible bounce of “California Girls” there is a rapturous wave of cheering that almost drowns Wilson out, ironically.

From there the show is harnessed by Wilson’s superlative band, who thunder through the classics with precision and brio. Al Jardine’s son Matt does much of the vocal heavy lifting—through some bizarre irony, Brian Wilson’s 2017 band contains more Beach Boys than the Mike Love-fronted band that tours under the Beach Boys name—and the complex harmonies are note-perfect. They will be needed as the band crest into Pet Sounds, ending up playing it in its entirety. The greatest compliment the musicians could be paid that they sound virtually identical to the album, with the deep cuts sparkling beautifully (“That’s Not Me” and “I Know There’s an Answer” are particular highlights). From there’s it’s a home run through an effervescent string of hits, including a robust “Good Vibrations”. However, perhaps the most revealing moment occurs after the concert ends. Within literally 2 minutes of the final notes of a tender “Love and Mercy”, security shunt open a backstage gate and a four-by-four carrying Wilson streaks away into the night. As ever, the flesh-and-blood Brian Wilson is subsumed by his legend. CO

B+

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gikGLzkKElw

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Afrobeat, House, Pop

Bimbi Philips- “Lamba” Review

Bimbi Philips’ music is, to a large extent, a study in escapism. By day an IT consultant in London, he moonlights as a singer of fizzy Afrobeat, and this contrast is exemplified not just by the tropical zest of his music but by the “Lamba” music video, in which he is zapped from a grey city street to a lush forest, snowy peak and fire-lit log cabin. He is also escaping from the traditional Afrobeat of Fela Kuti in his incorporation of elements of house and modern EDM in the airy, clean production, synthesised basslines and clipped, ecomical drum machines of “Lamba”.

In this, Philips makes an effective stab at pop resonance. His music is far lighter and breezier than an Ebo Taylor or a Kuti, and the influence of modern pop is evident in his soft, slightly effeminate vocals that are vaguely reminiscent of Justin Bieber or The Weeknd. “Lamba” is carried by its nagging, insistent bassline and the unusual African inflections of Philips’ singing, although they never overpower the cheerful, blustery accessibility of the music. The sunny optimism of “Lamba” almost tips into self-parody at times—notably in the repetition of “I’m going to do everything for you ‘cos I love you”, but the lyrics are a circumstantial concern and barely scratch the potential of “Lamba” as a nascent club hit. CO

B

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPvYebfizik

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Hip Hop, Pop

DJ Khaled- “Grateful” Review

The prevalence of DJ Khaled in modern pop and hip-hop is perpetually puzzling. A man who doesn’t produce his own beats, and who is, to put it kindly, a limited MC and lyricist has nonetheless been heard bellowing his own name on radio hits for over a decade. By his own admission, Khaled is closer to an organiser and promoter of the music that is released in his name, generating a reputation through his bullish self-promotion and seemingly endless connections. A brief scroll through the track listing of “Grateful” will reveal endless famous names: Beyoncé, Jay Z, Rhianna, Drake, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj just to name a few.

Khaled’s status as a meme is also probably a contributing factor in his fame. His escapades, including famously getting lost on a jetski, leaking his own sex tape and live-streaming the birth of his son have all drawn bemused incredulity, as well as the easy dilution of his brand down to a handful of hollered phrases—“Another one”, “We The Best Music”, “Congratulations, you played yourself”. In this noisy and transient zeitgeist-defining, his actual music is often lost.

“Grateful” itself is primarily defined both consciously and unconsciously by excess. The record bloats horribly at 23 songs, loosely defined as a concept album about Khaled’s thankfulness for his “blessings”, namely his fame, his money and his son. An Apple interview before the album’s release provides a surprisingly insightful glimpse into his mentality in producing “Grateful”: “This is my 10th album so I’m going all out… there’s no album cuts on there, these are all anthem singles”. Indeed, tracks often seem to mirror recent rap hits: “Iced Out My Arms” bears a strong resemblance to Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA” and “Good Man” sounds a bit like Desiigner’s “Panda”.

Ironically, as the album wears on, the endless guest spots that were probably intended to obscure Khaled’s lack of talent become its greatest weakness. Songs like “Whatever” are ruined simply through overcrowding, various guests virtually shouting over one another to be heard, and this is mirrored in the glossy clutter of the production. This problem is compounded by Khaled’s desire to make the album into a non-stop hit-fest, meaning that there are no subtle, reserved moments on “Grateful” in which the listener can catch their breath. Despite being 23 tracks long, the record still feels strangely truncated and rushed.

In amongst the unfocused clutter and noise there are glimmers of potential. One of the best moments on “Grateful” is the relaxed, sunny and (at least comparatively) spacious “I’m the One”, which will probably become one of the biggest songs of the summer. “Wild Thoughts” is a dreamy Spanish guitar reverie with a passable Rhianna guest spot, and “I Love You So Much” is a catchy enough to survive the typical pointless overproduction, a sweet Jackson 5 pastiche glorifying Khaled’s son with likeably ridiculous Khaled hyperbole (“you’re a mogul, you’re an icon, you’re a legend”). However, most of the rest of the album is lost in a din of headache-inducing excess, soullessly clinical production and Future’s ridiculous comatose flow. CO

D+

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weeI1G46q0o

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Pop, Uncategorized

Music Theory: ‘Down The Aisle’

The mysterious artist, Music Theory, hails from Egypt and he creates a beautiful blend of listenable pop music, best exhibited in his upcoming single ‘Down The Aisle’, which you can watch the video for here.

Inspired by some of the best in the business, including Maroon 5, Michael Jackson and Usher, Music Theory borrows elements from a wide range of musicians and styles, allowing him to craft his own unique style within the busy and highly-occupied world of pop music. Consequently, Music Theory often veers into the worlds of rock, dance and R&B when it comes to writing his music.

It can be difficult in today’s pop music sphere to make yourself stand out, but Music Theory is doing this with a combination of simple, honest songwriting and well-crafted lyricism that differentiates his music from the crowd.

‘Down The Aisle’ was mixed by Bob Horn (Usher/Akon) and was mastered by Tom Coyne (Adele/Taylor Swift).

Want a little more insight into the world of Music Theory? Check out his blog here: http://mtmusictheory.blogspot.co.uk/ 

 

Links:

https://soundcloud.com/musictheory2016

https://www.facebook.com/musictheory2016/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNHe1k5TPYkM8EHLiaDkL_w

http://www.musictheory.zone

 

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Pop, R&B

‘I Need An Answer’ by Stunnah Gee and Kymo Kingin

‘I Need An Answer’ is the new single from urban collaborative duo Stunnah Gee and Kymo Kingin, who have joined forces to create their 6-track EP, Nipples.

If you’re wondering about the intriguing title of the record, it stems from the fact that the EP is aiming to raise breast cancer awareness. It will also be donating 10% of all proceeds towards organisations searching for a cure and those who cannot afford treatment.

Within the pair’s blend of R&B and pop is a powerful message and cause that only adds poignance to ‘I Need An Answer’. Produced by T-Izze, the track takes the shape of a moving ballad, led by delicate piano and emotive vocals.

After his Uncle passed away from pancreatic cancer and his Aunt’s several breast cancer scares in the past, Stunnah Gee was keen to use his talent of music for more than just pleasure, instead applying it to helping those in need.  Stunnah Gee and Kymo wanted to ‘create world music and to break boundaries with the project, but in the long run after sharing so many ideas, the thought came to us that we can do much more than just create music, but also give back to the society and that’s how we made it a breast cancer awareness project.’

Kymo Kingin, an R&B legend back in his home country of Nigeria, is an accomplished musician having been nominated for a Channel O award in Africa, whilst Stunnah Gee has been nominated for a MOBO award and even won a BEFFTA in 2016.

Along with a heart-string pulling video, ‘I Need An Answer’ is a track of great quality, combining its musical craftsmanship with the noble cause of supporting those with breast cancer.

Find out more on Stunnah Gee and Kymo Kingin:

 

Buy/Listen to the EP here:

http://itunes.apple.com/album/id1213793293?ls=1&app=itunes

https://open.spotify.com/album/0AjCKz6JWFl9GQbOaLu29u

 

Find out more on Stunnah Gee and Kymo Kingin here:

https://www.facebook.com/StunnahGee/?fref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/KymO.Kingin/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf

https://twitter.com/stunnahgee

https://twitter.com/KymO_Kingin

https://www.instagram.com/stunnahgee/?hl=en

https://www.instagram.com/kymo_kingin/?hl=en

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Pop, Rock, Singer-songwriter

‘Freedom – What does the word even mean?’ – Beldon Haigh’s protest song

How often do you hear a protest song? Not very, I would say is the case for most people, but in reaction to America’s new president, Mr. Donald Trump, Beldon Haigh has written an anti-trump protest song to empower all those voices who feel the same way.

Supposedly, the idea for the song came to Beldon in a dream, so he was quick to jot down his ideas when he woke up. Beldon used to play in bands back in the 80s such as Mikifin and Boxing Clever and has since honed his craft as a musician, culminating to this point where he has found that writing songs of protest is where his heart lies.

Combining simple, yet effective songwriting with pertinent lyrics that make their way straight to the point, Beldon’s style is no fuss music for the 21st century, formed using classic instrumentation and pop-influenced hooks.

However, Beldon is also influenced by the likes of The Waterboys, Tears For Fears, Bob Dylan and James Taylor, displaying a strong musical pedigree that is clear when you listen to the music.

 

Find out more on Beldon Haigh here:

Links:

https://twitter.com/beldonhaigh

https://www.facebook.com/Beldon-Haigh-Freedom-An-Anti-Trump-Protest-Song-1270990246327550/?fref=ts

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/freedom/id1195525999?i=1195526008

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