James Grant; he’s an enigmatic artist. You never know what’s coming next, but you know it won’t be dull. I’ll save the history lesson for another day, but let’s just say he’s been around for a while. His latest venture is a collaboration with producer Gordy Goudie under the name of The Korvids and “Bad Faith” is the third single taken from the upcoming album “The Korvids”. “Bad Faith” isn’t just influenced by late seventies disco, it is late seventies disco, from the melodic bassline and clipped, toppy rhythm guitar parts to the congas and falsetto vocals. It’s a joyous romp through everything that was great about the heyday of disco; it’s played with style and panache, but it’s also great fun. What more could you ask for?
The publicity for the single focusses on the musical style as a departure from James Grant’s previous work but there are elements of the single that have echoes of his past work; the album “Strange Kind of Love” had a funky feel and was also produced by Gary Katz, who was brought in to remix this single. This James Grant and his past incarnations have more in common than you might think.
James Grant, it’s good to hear from you again.
Out now on Nang Records.
Lasso Moon is an amalgamation of two Liverpool bands Broken Men and Sankofa and “Kimota Codeine” is their first single, coming out towards the end of January. The press release describes it as a love song to codeine, but I’m not buying in to that. The minimalist arrangement in the verses of drums and a picked guitar line (and the black and white one-shot, static video) hint at pathos, desperation and addiction rather than any joyous high. Codeine’s an opiate painkiller and highly addictive; this is about addiction to oblivion and shutting out the world. The song and the video show a bleak world where there are no highs or lows, only monotony, and codeine is a desperate attempt to shut that world out, however briefly.
None of this is a criticism of the song, which evokes this twilight world perfectly, with downbeat verses and choruses which are marginally more positive. Combined with the video it creates a stark vision, where the illness is only slightly worse than the cure.
“Kimota Codeine” is released on Friday January 27th.
Where do we start with this one? Well. It’s not a cover of the Edwin Starr disco classic. It’s project, featuring music and video, dealing with the alienation in modern technocratic society and trying to encourage us to reconnect with nature and each other by stepping away from the machines. Sokol (Czech for falcon, apparently) crowd-funded “Contact” by going out on the streets with a t-shirt and a piggy bank to advertise the project.
The song is built on a thudding bass line, shimmering indie guitar sounds and some of the dirtiest synth gurgles you’re likely to hear. It builds to a peak, breaks down before building again to a climax with some heavenly harmonies. It’s a very listenable piece of guitar pop/indie. But you really need to watch the video.
It was shot in Mongolia and has the production values of a BBC nature documentary. It’s a stunning piece of filming, showing the sheer joy of a father and son on horseback hunting with eagles. It meshes perfectly with the song’s message of disconnecting to reconnect, creating a hauntingly spiritual audio-visual experience.
“Contact” is released in the UK on November 11th, but here’s a sneak preview:
If you like a bit of raw energy and drive in your music, then this one should hit the spot. The Blinding Lights are brothers Callum, Theo and Jack Lury (piano/vocals, drums and guitar respectively) and bass player Will Lord. Their influences are hugely varied, although early Springsteen and various E Streeters crop up regularly. Strangely enough, the overall sound of “I Can’t Get Enough” reminds me much more of Bruce’s old Asbury Park compadre Southside Johnny, particularly in the way the horns are used from the first chorus onwards. There’s a hint of Dexy’s Midnight Runners in there as well.
The song’s driven along through the verse by a pumping one-note bass and a piano motif that’s echoed later by the brass as the song powers on like a juggernaut, running red lights and terrifying pedestrians to get to the girl (OK, it’s a bus really, I just got carried away with the image). The structure’s a lot like an old R’n’B thing where there’s a countdown (say, Edwin Starr’s “25 Miles”) and a breakdown before rebuilding and powering through to the end. Callum’s great rock’n’soul voice (maybe a bit of Steve Winwood in there) rides the rhythm with ease as his story of a lustful encounter builds to a climax.
It’s a thrill-ride from start to finish.
“I Can’t Get Enough” is released on November 4th, meanwhile you can have a look at the video here:
Despite all the dire predictions, there’s still an awful lot of really good music out there at the moment. The downside of this is that it can be difficult to make your songs stand out from the rest. Rachael Sage passes the old grey whistle test on “Try Try Try” with a slightly unusual arrangement, using a combination of slightly distorted violin and electric guitar as lead instruments and a mix of electric and acoustic guitars. It’s easy to see why this made number six on the radio chart in the US; it opens like a Tom Petty song before the intimate, close-miked vocal cuts through, followed by an outrageously catchy violin hook. For the soul fraternity, there’s horns and a Hammond; there’s even a violin solo closely followed by a guitar solo and an acoustic breakdown. All the elements for a great single are there and they’re put together beautifully.
“Try Try Try” is released on Friday September 30th and Rachael’s album “Choreographic” follows on Friday November 11th on Mpress Records.
If you want to see Rachael in London, she’s playing at The Troubadour on Friday September 23rd.
Here’s the audio-only clip of the single:
How about something nice and mellow to ease everyone into a new week? I think you may have come to the wrong place, because what we’ve got here is the latest single from The Soap Girls and the song’s title tells you almost everything you need to know. The Soap Girls are sisters Mille and Mie from Cape Town and they’re punchy, savvy and full of attitude. “Bad Bitch” is a raucous mix of stripped-down punk and rock with big drums, a simple riff and the message that no-one messes with The Soap Girls.
But it’s not just about making a glorious noise, The Soap Girls know all about marketing their songs. The whole package is aimed at young men, and that’s not a criticism; Mille and Mie understand that you need to sell more than just the songs in the twenty-first century and they’ve created an image that suggests availability with an element of transgression that’s just about spot-on for their plan for world domination. The video has strong Gothic elements (using a colour palette of black, white and red) and cuts rapidly between costume changes mixed with lots of blood and darkness, but the cartoon violence and self-parody suggest that maybe they’re not taking it too seriously. Why not have a look for yourself:
They’re touring the UK and Europe at the moment, so why not go along and see what all the fuss is about.
Alphabetic aren’t having any of that shoegazing malarkey. None of your dreary monochrome, monotone moping; “French Boyfriend” is loud, it’s catchy, you can dance to it and it’s Technicolour. It does what every good single does; it grabs you with intro; eight bars of almost disco drums, organ stabs and a great guitar hook drag you into the first verse where singers Walter Heale and Rebecca Lever deliver their sides of the boy-meets-girl, boy-loses- girl, boy-stalks-girl-with-new-boyfriend story. And it’s glamorous (and a bit sleazy) because it’s set in Paris.
Alphabetic have mixed a lot influences into this song; the guitar has a clean sixties sound while the production tends towards eighties blue-eyed British soul. Imagine The Shadows in a soundclash with Pulp, ABC and The Associates and you won’t be far off the mark; maybe a little Saint Etienne shine as well. This is a great lead track from their upcoming debut album “Touch”, out on July 15th.
Springsteen did it with Asbury Park NJ and, much more recently, Michael McDermott’s band The Westies did it with Chicago. They created a strong sense of place with characters and incidents directly observed or based on reality. On his EP “LA 14”, Rod Melancon has gone down the same route with his own little corner of Louisiana. Of the five songs on “LA 14” (produced by former Dwight Yoakam guitarist, Brian Whelan), four are stories of life in a small town deep in the American South.
The opening song, “Perry”, is a mid-tempo rocker with a pumping synth bass, telling the tale of the town’s bad boy, before the tempo slows and the time signature changes to ¾ for “Dwayne and Me”, a look back at a childhood friendship ended by Vietnam. “Lights of Carencro” is a menacing and grungy, the production matching the story of sudden death and delayed revenge before the final song “By Her Side” slows the pace to tell the love story of a lonely old man, the melancholy feel enhanced by some delicate pedal steel from Marty Rifkin. The central song, “A Man like Me Shouldn’t Own a Gun” contrasts with the rest of the EP, as an uptempo thigh-slapping piece to make sure the atmosphere doesn’t get too maudlin.
The feeling in the songs doesn’t just come from the lyrics; they’re often pretty matter-of-fact. Rod’s voice, older than its years, seemingly always on the verge of cracking, and some superb playing from Marty Rifkin on “By Her Side” and Brian Whelan’s steadily-rising solo on “Dwayne and Me”, are powerful and emotive; you can’t listen to these songs and not be moved. Rod Melancon understands that the little details add to the pathos; “Lights of Carencro” is more powerful because we know that the dead brother’s favourite song was Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love” and it’s always there as a reminder.
There’s a darkness on the edge of this town and Rod Melancon’s songs expose it, but they also capture the human touch that’s always just below the surface. LA 14 -- running all the way from pure pathos to supernatural menace.
“LA 14” is released in the UK on Friday June 17th on Blue Élan Records (BR1015).
Here’s the video for “Perry”:
It’s a sunny Friday afternoon and it’s about time for a quick single review. Kakkmaddafakka are from Bergen in Norway and the single “Young You” is a taster for their debut album “KMF”, due to be released on June 1st. The interesting mix of slowed-down Italo house piano, an ethereal, fragile indie vocal and a bubbling bassline evokes the era of the first dance/indie crossovers when bands like Primal Scream and The Soup Dragons first jumped on to the Ibiza remix bandwagon. This is one of the songs that’s going to sound great at festivals in the sunshine (not Glastonbury then); who knows, maybe it’s the beginning of the third summer of love. And, yes, we do get the EMF reference.
Here’s the video for the single: