Friday, 8 November 2013

Guest Post - Jim Mackney: The Marshall Mathers LP

They tried to make him a social pariah, they tried to banish him from the airwaves but every missile lobbed at him he caught, rewired it and threw it back so hard it decimated every argument. 

It was the year 2000 and Eminem had just released The Marshall Mathers LP. A scathing, brutal, brilliant rap album that became the fastest-selling solo album in US history. It contained some of the greatest hip-hop songs ever seen on record and Eminem, at this point, was untouchable and his critics hated him for it. 

It is thirteen years later and Eminem is in somewhat of a rut. He is no longer the social barometer for offensive lyrics, his raps have been said to be lacking and he has released three underwhelming albums in a row. ‘Encore’ was patchy to say the least, ‘Relapse’ was a tired attempt to reconnect to his alter-ego Slim Shady and ‘Recovery’ which despite showing a much more consistent flow was shallow lyrically. 

The album opens with ‘Bad Guy’, a seven minute follow-up to ‘Stan’ and it is easily the most astonishing song has released in over a decade. Eminem introduces Matthew (“that’s my little brother man, he’s only six years old") and chronicles Matthew’s long awaited revenge. The song is, weirdly, a way for Eminem to take a shot at himself, as Matthew mimics (“I’m the bad guy who makes fun of people that die/And hey, here’s a sequel to my Mathers LP just to try and get people to buy”) - mimicking and attacking his critics in the opening two verses. A classic Eminem quick punch to the jugular. The song contains deeper self analysis, and knowingly references the double standards he has of being a horrible misogynist in his lyrics and then in the same breath defends his daughters. He understands his own hypocrisies and it makes for wonderful listening. 

The Marshall Mathers LP2 is Eminem’s best album in over a decade. Its links to MMLP1 are explicit, with its rock-rap production and furiously fast flow. Many lines on the album are carefully chosen echoes of the past that both subvert his old lyrics and delightfully play with our expectations. On ‘Asshole’, it’s the altered line “Soul’s escaping through this asshole that is gaping", whilst ‘So Far’ has him again “spittin’ on your onion rings” and the ‘Rap God’s dizzying flow hides references to ‘Kill You’ and ‘My Dad’s Gone Crazy’. 

But the greatest example of messing with our expectations is on Bad Guy where Eminem raps (“It’s just you and the music now, Slim, I hope you hear it; we’re in the car right now – wait, hear comes my favourite lyric!”). Eminem knows exactly what he is doing when he busts out this reference, he is manipulating words he knows are chiseled into the brains of millions of listeners around the world and the effect is as jaw dropping as it is great. 

Apart from the occasional freestyle in the last few years listening to Eminem has felt like chore. Bogged down in average beats, underwhelming lyrics and no genuine surprises. MMLP2 takes this and throws it out the window. He is genuinely funny (‘So Far…’ in particular) and throws everything into making this album a success, even including an unexpected apology to his most hated sparring partner, his mother, on ‘Headlights’, (“I love you Debbie Mathers, oh what a tangled web we have”). Elsewhere ‘Stronger Than I Was’, a five minute ballad that is the first moment on the album where you question Eminem’s judgment. This quickly passes however as he settles into the song and you realise it is an inspired move and those initial reservations are forgotten. The Beastie Boys-inspired ‘Berzerk’ is a particular highlight and the huge Rihanna chorus of ‘The Monster’ proves once again that fusing rap and pop is something Eminem can do better than any other rapper in the game

MMLP2 contains so many raps that another rapper could probably fill three albums. His machine gun-like delivery is exemplary throughout, consistently making the listener wonder where he will take them next and only at one point, during Survival, did I question his judgment. It is not that Survival is a bad song it is just obviously the weakest, feeling like an unused Recovery track. The only guest spot Eminem offers up on the album is to Kendrick Lamar. After hearing Kendrick’s verse on ‘Control’ it would be interesting to see who comes out on top but MMLP2 itself proves this irrelevant. Kendrick has a long way to go to touch Eminem. 

When I first heard Eminem thirteen years ago, it felt like a whole new world had opened up to me. This world was scary but words themselves had a new meaning and my perception of what you could do with them had changed. Eminem was the biggest rapper in the world at that point and he cemented his success with the brilliant ‘The Eminem Show’ two years later. It may have taken him just over a decade to scale those heights again but with MMLP2 Eminem has once again proved himself as a brilliant, demented genius. MMLP2 is one of the most impressive, enjoyable, and addictive hip-hop albums of the year. 


Thursday, 17 October 2013

New Artist Alert: Oliver Daldry

It's really refreshing when an artist comes along with a real passion for not just music, but songwriting; not making music for music's sake, but as an outlet for themselves and to inspire others. When Oliver Daldry's email landed in my inbox, he painted the picture of a very humble indie artist, yet a few clicks later his personal website paints a very different picture of professionalism and somebody geared up for the long haul in this industry.

Daldry is a 19 year old singer/songwriter from East Anglia, UK and his debut album, The Boy Who Fell, has just been released on iTunes. Already picking up connotations of 'the new Paul Simon' and with references to Ed Sheeran, Daldry is a skilled classical guitar player who has honed his craft in his tender years and plays wherever and whenever he can. The package is almost complete, save for the music itself...

The Boy Who Fell, the title track from the album is, according to Daldry, about a close friend who saw life deal them an unfortunate set of circumstances as it often does and tells the tale of somebody unfortunately in this instance not able to face their demons. The upbeat, picky folk-style guitar intro leads us quickly to a fantastic lead vocal; immediately it's current yet similarly could have been plucked from a familiar television advert. Daldry's gentle, breathy tones, with a hint of reverb to add a little more colour, compliment the underlying arpeggio before opening up as the track builds, revealing a great vocal range that glides effortlessly into its falsetto. Production-wise it's spot-on, as it takes a left turn both feel and tempo-wise, pulsating with a little more passion atop choral backing vocals; it sounds like two separate songs but they fit perfectly together as we return at the end to the feel and fragility of the opening section. This is a really strong folk-pop song that is sure to fill back-rooms in pubs as easily as it could arenas.

Faded tells a sad tale of dementia as strings pick out the mood of the piece, sliding through the chord progression as the classic-Daldry sound of picky acoustic guitar and minimalistic rhythms compliment the simple yet effective vocal melody. Concrete throws the spotlight on Daldry's talent for guitar playing which amalgamates a Newton Faulkner style with a Paulo Nutini-sounding feel to the vocals as distant hints of slide guitar support this upbeat-feeling track, of which the arrangement is excellent.

I get the feeling that Daldry is on the cusp of something quite exciting and, if he plays his cards right, could see himself in a very different place in a very short time. A real talent combined with passion and humble roots will go a long way and I hope to be able to say I heard him when...

'The Boy Who Fell' is available for download from iTunes now for a mere £3.99 whilst you can keep up to date with Oliver Daldry on his website. Check out the album-taster video below, and be sure to grab yourself a copy. Enjoy :)

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

XSARA - Are There Dragons in Your Heart?

You may remember way back in February of XSARA's debut feature on the blog sharing her EP and news of her album on the way... well, said album Are There Dragons in Your Heart? is available now and I've been invited to take a listen...

In typical XSARA style, it's rich in sultry tones and jazz-influenced feels which suit her mature voice perfectly. Kicking off with She's a Monster, a rocking, upbeat circus-sideshow of a track that is sure to sound even better live, the album takes a step back on Moving On, a heartfelt piano-ballad. It runs around a simple chord progression and is led by the lead vocals, providing a real showcase early on in the album. Strange Love hints at the first full-band jazz feel with smokey, stabby piano chords and a classic ride line, the vocals with a real Paloma Faith-esque tone whilst Sticks and Stones once again dips down slightly with another, slower, piano-led track which soon picks up with a real Nina Simone backdrop to the music.

Sitting pretty in the middle is Business of Bodies, a pick-me-up if ever there was one with great live-sounding drums and sax, vocals and the lower register of the piano picking up the ostinato at the start of each bar. The vocals remain as interesting, with a nod to Anthony Keidis' spoken-word/singing style at times, before It's Not Me drops, dimming the lights on its way past. It's another piano-ballad but there's a certain fragility that isn't present in its predecessors, a certain vulnerability that really sparkles. I'm Your Animal has a nice feel and pace whilst maintaining the classic XSARA sound.

Leading us into the final stages is the frantic One Eyed Man that would be at home on one of the smaller Glastonbury Festival stages in the obscure outer fields in the small hours of Saturday morning, whilst the great-sounding drums pick up where they started, leading the charge in the final track You Got a Problem? It's the perfect summary of the album with breezy sax, sexy vocals and lazy jazz bass.

Are There Dragons in Your Heart is XSARA at her best and is, I'm sure, exactly what her fan base are both hoping for and expect. If you're intrigued, you can preview and purchase a copy for yourself from her Bandcamp page, and be sure to keep up to date with XSARA on Facebook. Enjoy :)

Sunday, 6 October 2013

New Artist Alert: Los Waves

When We Were Beautiful is proud to announce the feature of London-based psychedelic pop duo Los Waves whose debut single, Got A Feeling, was recently released last month. The band describe their music as an 'intricate and harmonious meltdown of their [the members'] experiences from months living in tents on deserted beaches in South America'. It's certainly a colourful background and one that is sure to influence the musical output of any artist, and Los Waves seem to be no exception.

Got A Feeling has been released under indie label Summer Filth Records and features 'sunshine fuzzy guitars' of which I'm very excited to hear. I've had a listen to the single, for which the video is available to watch below.

Kicking off with a hazy fuzz of electric guitars and lo-fi sounding drums, a glockenspiel picks up a simple melody on top of the mix throughout the intro before the main guitar riff continues into the first verse. The drums remain lively throughout as a synth takes over the spotlight in a brief interlude between the first two verses in what seems to be a radio-friendly pop track with a life of its own. The glockenspiel returns with a little momentary restbite as the video remains as psychedelic as the music; both vocally and musically the track is rather repetetive though this is complimented by the eclectic mix of sounds and instruments. It could be just at home on a TV advert as on the radio as on stage and promises a lot of potential from the London-based duo.

You can keep up to date with Los Waves on Facebook, and also purchase your own copy of the single via iTunes. Enjoy :)

Afterlife Parade - Breakaway

I can't believe it's been over two years since Afterlife Parade were featured on the blog but it's been a busy time for Nashville's Quinn Erwin who has since been named a local lightening artist by Lightening 100, his local independent radio station. The break has also seen the recent release of latest single 'Breakaway' last month which I've had a chance to listen to myself.

Of the track, Erwin says: “We hope this song lays the ground work for what we’re planning for the future. We have a bigger vision than just the music that we’re starting to communicate about although the music is the integral part of what we do...we’re looking forward to sharing that with our fans and further cultivating community with them.” 

The track eases gently into life before quickly establishing an upbeat feel and showcasing the reverb-laden lead vocals. A nice feature is made of harmonising Erwin's vocals before the chorus stirs into life briefly, and then the track takes a slight left-turn as it dips into the second verse, the texture ever-thickening. Both the message and arrangement are simple yet effective with the key spotlight shining on Erwin's vocals throughout. There's a tense bridge section which pulsates below the surface, again building as it heads for the final chorus. An effective electro-pop track which fans of Afterlife Parade are sure to enjoy.

With a plan to tour in support of the track focussed on smaller intimate settings, you might be hard-pushed to see Afterlife Parade live however be sure to keep up to date with the band on Facebook. You can both listen to, and purchase your own copy of, the Breakaway EP from the Afterlife Parade Bandcamp page which also features an instrumental version of the track and a live offering.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

A. Jude - 'Plush' soundtrack

It's been a long time since Julian Shah Taylor has featured on the blog but, under his new alias A. Jude, Tayler has written and recorded three tracks, which are soon to feature in the sets of his live band The Singularity, for a the hit-motion picture Plush which stars Emily Browning (Suckerpunch) and Xavier Samuel (Twilight). The erotic thriller is set for release this month, and A. Jude had a hand in the initial recording phase for the soundtrack to the film.

Jude is no stranger to working with big names, having collaborated in the past with Joaquin Phoenix and Courtney Love and is excited to add Browning and Samuel to this list. Speaking of the project, Jude tapped into the unique side of his writing and recording techqniues that features the electronic/rock 'hybridisation' of bands such as Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode, flavours of which are both evident in the new tracks.

This is an excellent opportunity added to the repertoire of a very talented artist who gives a lot back. Tayler is also directing the LA-based charity 'Art Angeles' that provides musical intsruments and education for inner-city children which sounds like a wonderful initiative. Somehow he also manages to find time to place his music in up-coming Australian film 'The Messenger' and is the musical director and composer for web series 'The Mysfits' for which he has written the theme.

You can listen to samples of the new album from The Singularity here, and watch the official trailer for Plush below.

New Artist Alert: Bobaflex - Bad Men

It's been a while! Apologies to readers who may expect posts on a more regular basis, but I've just started my first teaching job which is exceptionally full-on at the moment (and doesn't show much sign of slowing either!). Considering this, all I can promise is that I'll post when I can. And, as with waiting for a bus, a quiet inbox has recently been inundated with requests for features, so I'll get through things as quickly as I can.

Starting things off is Bobaflex, veteran American rockers who are currently promoting the release of their sixth studio album Charlatan's Web, the follow-up to 2011's Hell in my Heart. There's a lot of history to the band, and the angsty, feudal past still spills into the feel of the music, as lead-single Bad Man, for which you can see the official video for below, stands testament to.

The intro is fairly tame; a quick progression that wastes no time in kicking off whilst foot-tapping metal lead by a strong lead-guitar riff takes us quickly through the verse. The vocals hit a low-fi feel for the succinct pre-chorus before the main-event, a driving melodic chorus that fills my ears. It's written and performed confidently and, with a huge open sound and some great melodies tracking the lead vocals, is just as short as its predecessing sections; a real tease of what's to come. The band opens things up further with an extended musical section, intended as either a post-chorus or pre-verse helping, and it's here you realise we're only a minute in and have been already been treated to so much. Countless bands will while-away with unnecessary intros and extensions of sections, but Bobaflex mean business and they want you to know about it. The video is fairly simple yet effective with a great lighting rig and pyro set-up; the band look as if they've been around a while but know how to perform - the production and performance is awesome. The track lasts just over 3 minutes but after the second chorus there's still time for a guitar solo before we go around a slick final chorus and outro. This track is a real rocker and, if it's anything to go by, the whole album is sure to be a pleasure to listen to.

Bad Man is currently doing the rounds on American radio and the album is available from the merch section of the band's official website here. Be sure to keep up to date with the guys on Facebook, and you can catch the official video for Bad Man below.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Great Sound for Musicians


    For me, choosing the right pair of headphones is really important. For me as a musician, it's crucial I can rely on headphones that work for me in ensuring I'm hearing exactly what I need to and, just as importantly, exactly what I don't. For me as a commuter, wherever I might be going, if I choose to listen to music on the move I've made that decision knowing that that's all I want to hear, without any frustrating background noise accompanying the tracks in my ears.

    Sony's latest range of headphones ensure that I can make the right choice depending on my lifestyle. So much effort goes into music production yet this is wasted on so many who play music directly from their mobile phone, laptop, or through low-quality headphones. The Prestige headphones from Sony's latest range are perfect for someone like me who doesn't want to have to sacrifice sound-quality but wants to remain subtle with comfortable in-ear headphones. For the commuters on the Underground, in noisier environments, or just for those who like to show the world they love their music, I love the simple design of Sony's 'Travel' headphones which boast a 99% noise-cancelling feature - perfect for blocking out the world around you and enjoying music for its sole purpose, and the reason it was created in the first place.

    As a musician, working in either the studio or when playing at home, the quality of sound should not be lost due to a poor pair of cans. That's where the Prestige Headband model comes in. As a top-end market contender without the painful price tag to go with it, no quality is spared in these musician-suited headphones; I was particularly impressed that they had been developed in a unique partnership with music engineers, which offers the piece of mind that people from my industry have put their stamp on something that's so important when I'm working.

    It's so easy to settle for a cheap pair of headphones, but where Sony is so appealing in price really doesn't affect the quality of the product, and there's such huge variety in their range to suit not just every pocket but every requirement. I think that's what's so impressive; Sony understand the many different expectations consumers have when they listen to music these days, and the different environments this may be in. If you're in the market for a pair, why not see what Sony's latest range has to offer.

    What's important to you when you go about buying a pair of headphones? Have you recently bought a pair of Sony headphones? What did you think? If you still need some convincing, check out the video below!



    Sponsored Post


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Maycomb Release 'Dynamiter' Music Video

This just in! I Am Mighty Records are pleased to announce the release of Maycomb's music video for Dynamiter, which you can view below. You may remember the band's last post back in December last year in my New Artist Alert feature and they have since been busy touring and promoting the same album which features Dynamiter; the album is available for purchase from iTunes.

The band had the following to say about the video:

Loosely based on “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand, ‘Dynamiter’ is about keeping your integrity and staying true to yourself, especially when presented with the option of taking the easy way out and caving in to other people’s expectations. The video is a continuation of these themes, along with the idea of destroying something fundamentally flawed in order to start anew; the books that are discovered and eventually burned representing miss-steps, failures, and the naivety of past decisions”

The video has barely been up a week and has already amassed  over 1,500 views! Enjoy :) 

Thursday, 15 August 2013

New Artist Alert: Harmful if Swallowed

Hailing from the heart of Los Angeles, Harmful if Swallowed are a hard-hitting punk outfit who have shared the stage with the likes of Green Day and Weezer and will, later this month, be opening up for Unwritten Law. The power-pop quartet formed in 2006, and since then have been featured in numerous MTV shows and their latest offering, a 6-track EP titled 'Allergy', was produced by Grammy award winner Matt Hyde (No Doubt, Slayer).

The band claim to be taking on the music industry with all guns blazing, and the EP's title track certainly holds them to this. Allergy kicks off with a major-sounding, feel-good chugging electric guitar and lead vocals as the track builds steadily before kicking into the verse surrounded by the full-band. Still building with the hi-hats opening up slightly, the chorus settles nicely with a prescribed American rock/punk feel and a little more depth courtesy of the backing vocals. As a prelude to what I think is to be the second verse, we're treated to a short solo section from the lead guitar before building all over again and heading instead for a double chorus; the track feels short but coming in at just over three minutes it's a great length for radio and would certainly hold its own on the airwaves.

You can catch the video for Sabrina (Little Angel) below which packs a little more passion and grit than its predecessor with a feel in the vocal melodies and harmonies akin to Hinder and of course has the added visual element to support it.

Allergy is available for sale on iTunes alongside the band's back catalogue, and be sure to keep up with the guys on Facebook for up to the minute news.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

An Insight into the Workings of a Record Label - Coffee Jingle Records

Coffee Jingle Records have provided me with a few artists to share with you over the past year or so, but I thought it would be nice to bring you something a little different. For many bands, approaching a record label is difficult ground to cross, and very few achieve the often-considered 'making it' platform of getting signed. If you're after some advice about what labels love (and hate) or you're interested in how the day-to-day running of a record label pans out, I caught with Martin of Coffee Jingle Records.

How did you come about owning a record label?
It was an idea I had when I was at Highbury College in Portsmouth where I studied Music Production, before going onto Southampton Solent University, where I finalised the idea to start a record label. And with the support of the University I researched as much as I could for about 18 months before finally going ahead with the record label.

Talk us through an average day at the office for you.
I usually check my emails 4 or 5 times a day, I also network and promote about 3 or 4 hours a day and I also record and mix/master as much as I can. It’s basically a full time job at the moment however the team is growing for next year, so I will have more manpower (or people power I should say).

Do you scout potential artists or wait for them to come to you?
At the moment our roster is full, but I still scout for potential future projects I could be a part of, but all emails from bands get read and responded to ASAP. I do rather prefer to scout out artists as seeing them live and reading up about them does give me a head start as how to work with that particular artist.

What are the best and worst things bands can do to get your attention with an interest of being signed by you?
Best thing - Have good songs, as the strongest requirement a band can have is a catalogue of good songs.
Worst thing - Show unprofessionalism in any way

What's your favorite thing about your job?
Being a part of bands and artists developing and progressing throughout their careers and contributing with them to get their songs as they want them to sound. Also doing what I have dreamed about doing for a long time is very rewarding, it’s very hard work, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What's your least favorite thing about your job?
The time it takes to get releases done, however I hate rushing projects as there is nothing worse then looking back at a completed project and thinking 'if only I had spent more time on it I could have made it sound like this or this'.

How do you feel about the music industry in general at the moment? Are you excited or anxious for its current state and future?
A bit of both really, there’s no denying the industry is changing as rapid as technology is changing, and keeping up with it all is a daily challenge, which I am trying to keep up with at the moment. And for people like me who grew up listening to music in the late 80’s – early 90’s it does seem all a bit alien at times, but I have to change with the times which is both worrying and exciting. As for the state of the industry, it’s clear that the big money is in live events and touring, as CD sales are not what they once were, and regarding the future of music, it does seem to depend on what the next big technology breakout event is going to be.

What's new for the label at the moment, and what does the future hold?
Right now I am concentrating on getting more releases out there ASAP from the bands on the label, and hopefully in the future we will be working with an A and R company (who I am contacting this week) and getting our own studio equipment by the end of the year.

Finally, can you tell us a secret?
Don’t get carried away with spending thousands of pounds, make sure you have good, solid songs. Raw Power by The Stooges cost pennies and sounds like it was recorded in a sewer. Chinese Democracy costs over $12 million and is as polished as can be, and which album has gone down a classic? Songs make classic albums, not spending thousands on trying to polish them.

So there you have it, some sound advice from Martin at Coffee Jingle Records and a great insight into his label which is working hard and progressing well. Be sure to pay a visit to the label's website to check out all the artists on their roster and any upcoming events that might be happening near you.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Playing the Numbers Game

I couldn't believe it when I had a look back over my posts recently and discovered that I've been running this blog for four years now! My blog started life with a rather conspicuous nod to my favourite band Bon Jovi, including reviews of releases and live shows. I opened my umbrella up further to include reviews of other established bands but sought reward in more regular posts of reviews of local and/or up and comping artists in dire need of all the free publicity they could get.

It was interesting, though I suppose not so surprising, when looking at the stats for individual posts to see that when the content was based around Bon Jovi or other established bands, the view count was off the scale as compared to reviews of indie artists, and even peaked at an unheard of 7000+ for a review of a John Mayer/Ellie Goulding concert! Other spikes tend to be focussed around guest posts which I welcome, so if you've something in mind and would like to contribute, please do get in touch!

As a blog that associates itself with Bon Jovi, I have refrained from passing comment on the recent dramas and happenings among the band, whilst supporting both Richie and his solo endeavours and the band in theirs (it's sad to refer to both as separate entities). I have my own opinions, but have decided to focus my blog content on exposure and free publicity for indie artists; providing this is more important to me, as a musician myself brimming with empathy, than higher numbers of visitors -  I don't make any money through advertising on the site, it's more a labour of love. I'm sure this isn't an admission of exclusivity but it's important to provide a service to those who need it most, and I enjoy offering critique and opinion on those who might actually listen and heed my advice or celebrate my comments most of all.

Thanks for your support over the past four years; life has evolved as it has a habit of doing and with that has come more and less activity over the years but I'll always try to find time to post and can only hope people continue to seek new music in this way.

When We Were Beautiful

Monday, 5 August 2013

New Artist Alert: Jake Meeking - Walking on my Own

Fresh out of the Bath music scene is Jake Meeking and his debut EP Walking on my Own. Heavily influenced with jazz and blues undertones, you'll find all manner of artists influentially nestled among this wonderfully produced 4-track offering, which Meeking is pushing heavily around the Somerset area following performances at Moles Club in Bath, The Godney Gathering in Glastonbury and some radio airtime on Glastonbury FM.

The EP begins confidently with its title track, a mid-tempo jazz-inspired song in 6/8 featuring delicate lead vocals and a lazy lead-guitar line which has a great feel as it pushes against the straighter, more minimal drum track. The chorus appears unannounced, making a strong feature of the lead vocals as it forces the listener to really pick out the well-considered lyrics. Verse two features a slight embellishment, cautiously adding to the thin texture with sultry-sounding chords on the piano at the start of every bar before the intensity builds, but only slightly, before relaxing into the second chorus. It feels like a backwards way of structuring a song but it's soon clear as the chorus itself steadily progresses, with the whole track behind it, always building towards the rather short instrumental section. On my first listen, I'm willing it to go on and on, the texture thickening as the guitar steps into the spotlight showcasing a wailing solo but in its simplicity is where its effectiveness lies; the solo does come but is based around just two notes and a whole lot of sustain. Musos and fair-weather listeners alike will surely have their appetites whetted as Meeking cleverly leaves us wanting more but without compromising the genre nor laying out all his cards on the table in the very first track. As the music fades away, it's clear we're experiencing something quite fresh and exciting.

Keep My Eyes Open begins minimally with just vocals and guitar, leaving the listener guessing as to the feel and time-signature of the song which is quickly established with the introduction of the rhythm section, authentically featuring an upright bass. The track has a more popular-blues feel to it, as the chorus opens up slightly on the ride cymbal and with a little more intensity in the vocals and a new arpeggiated guitar part lying a little deeper in the mix. The second verse enters without introduction, maintaining the feel and up-tempo nature of the song, before getting quickly to a double helping of the chorus. There's a momentary lapse as the listener isn't allowed to get too comfortable; the bare bones of the track feature in this middle-8 section whilst it builds, showcasing a little embellishment on both the bass and electric guitar as they stray away from their home chords in search of a little more flamboyancy. The climax is lead by the drums quite suddenly, as the intensity is revamped for an extended musical section, but only for four bars, before the vocals take the reigns atop the much thicker chorus section. As we go around the chorus for a final time, some dual-layered harmonies in the vocals feature somewhere in the back of the mix, showcasing Meeking's top register for the first time and really displaying what he can do. As the track fades away, the backing vocals remain a strong and constant force, standing their ground against each dying ounce of the track and bullishly making their way to the centre of the mix as the music finally leaves the listener with a rather unnerving finale.

Breaking Out picks up where Keep My Eyes Open left off before settling into a 6/8 groove with a real Jeff Buckley-feel to the music. Picky acoustic guitar surrounds the delicate lead vocals, before the drums bring the song in and out with a mixture of the conventional and slightly less-so, playing on the rims of the drums at times. The chorus feels like the darkest on the EP, driving forcefully but lazily, and there's a lot going on behind the scenes if you really listen out for it. Things settle for the second verse as we return to the picky guitar and then the second chorus in time and it's here that I think the production of the EP is to be truly appreciated. It's clear a lot of time and consideration has gone into the post-production of the CD which really pays off for the listener. Meeking dips into his top register again, calling an end to the extended second chorus, as the track finishes going around the chorus progression but with a rhythmic twist at the end.

Closing the EP is At Its Best, the real gem in the crown for me, and a masterpiece deservedly left running around the listeners' minds long after the CD has finished spinning. It begins simply with a picky acoustic guitar part and vocals, relying on this simplicity as the song's foundation to carry it through the track. It changes gear without notice, a subtle chord change to mark a new section, and that's all it needs. Verse two differs only in the addition of the single chords on the downbeat of each bar, and it's here the listener first gets the feel the track is effectively a gradual crescendo to its destination, progressively building since the first note was struck and heading towards the end. More guitar tracks appear as the vocals ease off in the latter half of the song, allowing the music to do the talking; just as the music needs somewhere to go, it does, and ends. The track, and indeed the EP, has been building up to this pinnacle finale, this climatic ending, and it was there under our noses all along. I could wax lyrical about the piece but feel it speaks for itself and truly needs to be heard, or experienced, to be appreciated. A real defining moment, and highlight, of the EP.

Walking On My Own is available to stream, and purchase, from Jake Meeking's Bandcamp page and is also available for sale on iTunes. Be sure to catch up with him on Facebook where you can get the latest on where Jake is performing next. Help support our independent artists and get yourself a copy today, you won't regret it.

Monday, 8 July 2013

New Artist Alert: Lewis Mckale - The Bigger Picture

Introducing Lewis Mckale, an acoustic singer-songwriter from Brighton UK who fell into music as a 'second hobby' behind his first love, acting. Spurred on by a little personal advice from Frank Turner, Mckale's second EP, The Bigger Picture, has recently been released and I've had the chance to take a listen.

The title track of the EP kicks things off, setting the scene with easy-listening acoustic guitar and a Bowie-esque quality to Mckale's vocal. The arrangement is simple but effective; as with the strength of the vocals it's not ground-breaking but it doesn't need to be with this genre. Pleasant and plausible is perfectly acceptable, as Mckale adds a little rhythmic flair before the second chorus to maintain the listener's interest leading into the second half of the track whilst the instrumental section indulges in a little chordal-work on the xylophone/vibraphone-sounding instrument atop the interesting chord progression before introducing a high ostinato on the piano over the final section.

Next up is Those Were The Days which adds a lot more flair and intensity, crucial to holding interest on such an EP, with its 6/8 time signature and the welcome addition of a harmonica. The verses are held down simply with vocals and acoustic guitar whilst we're drip-fed just enough of the harmonica throughout, adding a nice texture to the piece. Track three, Prove You Wrong, picks up the pace a little further whilst returning to the tried-and-tested simplicity of vocals and acoustic guitar. The vocals sound a little strained at times with a few slight-tuning issues but nothing a little auto-tune can't fix (everybody's doing it) and it all adds to the human element of the EP.

Closing the show is (Don't) Forget Who You Are which adds a little more texture with the introduction of a cajon and a some more backing from the piano. The track has a nice driving feel to it, though I do feel Mckale could perhaps try running through a couple of the tracks trying out a capo on a few different frets to find a key he is completely comfortable singing in. There's no doubt the song-writing ability is there, and I feel that with a little tweaking these tracks are going to sound great live.

The Bigger Picture is available now for a free download from Mckale's Bandcamp page, and you can keep up to date with him via his own blog page. Enjoy :)

Monday, 1 July 2013

Alexander Video Release - Say Hello

Back in April, I was excited to bring you news of Alexander's new album release 'Say Hello'. Well now I'm even more excited to bring you the official video for the album's title track, which you can view below. The track is a real anthemic rocker, whilst the video seems quite simple on the surface but is really effective and looks great.

Of the video, the band have this to say:

"The song is about getting away from something that is really dragging you down, finding something fresh and just feeling great, even if it's just for a week. The video is about being open and just smiling at people saying hello, it's a message for people to just let everything go and be happy and open. The star signs which are featured on the bottom of each sign are a symbol of who we are and it's metaphor to show we are opening up to people" 

So there you have it; smile. It's infectious :)

The single is available via iTunes, along with a B-side available. Be sure to keep up to date with the guys on Facebook.

In other I Am Mighty records news, Lower Lands have released their new EP 'Canvas' which is available as a free download from the I Am Mighty Records website, whilst Maycomb are set to film their debut music video in the upcoming weeks - I anticipate there'll be more on that soon.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

New Artist Alert: Fenrir - Live Like Royalty

Hailing from Suffolk, UK, Fenrir are a five-piece alternative rock outfit who have recently released their debut 6-track EP 'Live Like Royalty'. Produced by Oliver Craggs (Feed the Rhino) at Hidden Tracks Studios, the quintet are bringing a "punchy and impressive sound" to the UK music scene in 2013. The band will be touring over the summer in support of the new record, having recently finished a co-headline tour around the UK with Searching Alaska.

I'm eased into the EP with opener Victory Rose as bluesy lead guitar tones with a gentle delay guide the listener in. A slight rhythm is established as the track builds, with choral backing vocals marking the progression before an explosive introduction opens up with that promised 'punch'. As instrumental openers go, it's a great start to the EP and really sets the band's stall out, whilst the segue into 'Haven't You Heard' is flawless. With aggressive guitars and crystal-clear production on the drums, this is a really polished effort. The vocals take an octave leap into the chorus as the track builds in intensity, dipping again slightly for a return to the verse. The chorus is so full of guitar tracks and harmonsied vocals but it doesn't feel overly-crowded, it's a great piece of song-writing.

'The Puppeteer' opens as aggressively as its predecessors before changing tact and switching to a major-sounding picky guitar part; the rhythm section maintain solidity throughout as the guitars and vocals again open up for the chorus to really pack a musical punch.

Closing the EP is 'Confessions', maintaining the progressive energy displayed throughout the record. The track leads from an extended vocal and electric guitar intro before everything kicks in around the one minute mark. It's a strong finisher, following the tried-and-tested formula that has seen the band through so effectively on the EP; it's a fantastic debut offering and a very exciting prospect for the UK music scene as pop-punk is starting to fade away into the background making space for it's bigger, more brutal, brother and this brother pulls no punches.

The EP is available to stream on Spotify and Bandcamp where you can purchase a copy of it. 'Live Like Royalty' is also available for sale on iTunes; be sure to keep up to date with the band for info on their summer tour. You can check out the video for 'Confessions' below. Enjoy :)

Monday, 10 June 2013

New Artist Alert: Doug Panton

Today marks the release date for Doug Panton's self-titled debut EP, available across most digital platforms worldwide. 19 year old Panton, an Essex-based singer-songwriter, has spent the best part of a year creating and producing his debut offering and is excited for his first release to finally be available, after a DIY background of accumulating fans from YouTube and at his live shows - a highlight of which includes performing for 15,000 people at the International Jamboree 2012. Panton has already been rubbing shoulders with some of the industry bigwigs including Mark Topham (Westlife, Il Divo) and Dave Scott (Oasis) having had the EP produced by the latter alongside Atomic Kitten engineers at Brook Lodge Studio. With some national radio airplay in his back pocket also, Panton is hoping his self-titled record is going to continue turning heads and attract some critical acclaim, and it seems to me as if he's well on the way to achieving just that.

It's all pretty impressive on paper, but what about where it really matters? Thankfully, Panton delivers musically as much as he does elsewhere; the EP kicks off with Young, introduced by some frantic finger-picking on an acoustic guitar and some Bastille-esque choral backing vocals. Panton's vocal is perfectly suited to today's pop market and sits confidently on top of the mix, leading the charge in a particularly pleasant opening track; it often reminds me of Ed Sheeran when melodically trailing off of the end of some of the notes and sets the scene for the EP effectively.

All or Nothing is sitting pretty halfway through, the trademark ballad-feel and tribal percussion making themselves known whilst the chorus is as strong as its predecessors in consideration of the genre; there definitely feels as if there's a film soundtrack in here somewhere. The piano drives this track, with some sparse lead-guitar work dropping in every so often to add another melodic layer as I'm again reminded of an Ed Sheeran b-side - surely not a bad comparison by any means.

Closing the show is Agree to Disagree; notably more major-feeling than minor, this feel-good finale relies on the vocals to carry the melody which they do well atop a simple chord progression. I feel the production is key on this track; although the chorus is packed a little fuller than the verses, it still maintains the light, floating feel to the track and is revisited often. It's just what is needed and rounds off the EP nicely whilst holding on to that sing-along, radio-friendly feel that has been established since track one.

The EP is available online now, and be sure to keep up to date with Doug via his Facebook page. In the meantime, enjoy this short teaser video to sample the EP for yourself, a try before you buy if you like. Enjoy.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

New Artist Alert: Lucas Hardy - The Blood, Sweat & Tears EP

Followers of this blog will be aware how heavily the Southampton-based kings of pop-punk The City Calls have featured over the years. Unfortunately their reign has since ended but front-man Lucas Hardy is back with his debut solo project.

The Blood, Sweat & Tears EP has shown a real DIY back-to-basics approach for Hardy, who put his name to all aspects of the creation and production of the project, taking him back to his roots and reminding him where it all began. With this great responsibility also comes complete control, which has enabled Hardy to produce something he is proud to release and tour in support of.

The EP kicks off with its title track, a chugging acoustic guitar complemented by falsetto-style vocals, as it progresses with melodic lead-lines and some great harmonious backing vocals. Track 2, City by the Sea, establishes a more rhythmic feel thanks to the acoustic guitar part, with the lyrics surely a nod to a life left behind in Southampton. It's a casual, simple ballad, with the lead vocals often complemented nicely with harmonies and supported by a particularly memorable sing-along chorus. 'Bug' has a different feel still, heavily vocal-led with an upbeat intro which parts for more relaxed verses before the choruses pick up further, progressing the track nicely. The listener's interest is definitely maintained well with the exploration of both predictable and interesting vocal harmonies; it's no easy task to do this with an acoustic singer/songwriter record but Hardy has effectively demonstrated how this is possible without relying on a sole feel and tempo all the way through. Sail Faith closes the record with an electro/synth accompaniment to the lead vocals which themselves grow with confidence as the EP does. The track completes the circle cleverly, returning to the narrowly-textured ballad but still with its own style and feel.

The potential danger with this EP, especially with such a recognisably distinctive vocal such as Hardy's, is that is could have sounded like an acoustic TCC calls record but it really doesn't; Hardy has established himself as a great songwriter and solo artist in his own right with this project which I'm confident will earn him a loyal fanbase and great foundations to continue the next chapter of his career.

The Blood, Sweat & Tears EP is released in the UK on Friday 31st May, so be sure to keep in touch with Lucas via his Facebook page for all the details. Lucas is playing next at Wight Rock Bar on the Isle of Wight on June 22nd; for all future gigs keep your eye on the Facebook page.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

New Artist Alert: Fauntella Crow - Just Try

I'm very pleased to share with you Fauntella Crow, an indie/folk duo from LA, who combine delicate vocals, violins, and keyboards to create a sound worthy of being a SXSW featured artist this year. Jessy Greene, one half of the band, has also toured and recorded violins for highly prestigious artists such as Foo Fighters, Pink, and R.E.M., whilst other half Sunday Lane is an old hat performer for iHeartRadio and Coachella.

But enough about the past, Just Try is the stunning new song from Greene and Lane, known together as Fauntella Crow. The accompanying video is featured below, which adds a whole new level to the song. Opening with a slow-pulsing violin and simple piano ostinato, the closely-harmonising vocals soon follow, establishing the foundations of Just Try. The lead vocals are lovely on their own, and only enhanced when supported; the track is a slow-burner but suitably so, it tiptoes along held aloft by a minimalist violin part and the feel of an old Damien Rice number. The track grows slowly without notice like a flower, gaining a slight momentum as it progresses, and it's only when it's over do you realise this. It's a lovely track, and one that is both potentially commercial and intricately personal.

Check out the video for Just Try below, and be sure to keep up with the girls on Facebook. Enjoy :)

Thursday, 2 May 2013

New Artist Alert: Noah Gopen

Every now and then, something a little different springs into my email box that catches my eye and it's always nice to share something a little refreshing. Not only is this the case with Noah Gopen, singer/songwriter from Massachusetts, but his new instrumental album, outline, is up for sale with half of the proceeds going to charity.

Gopen is splitting his royalties with cancer-supporting charity Love Hope Strength and victims of the devastating Boston Marathon bombings. Outline also features Turkish musician Cemre and, as Cemre describes, 'simple and humble' certainly spring to mind on my first listen.

Title track 'Outline' slowly builds in steps, with a simple piano and strings accompaniment introducing the track before a gentle right-hand melody leads us from the pleasant to the dissonant and back again. The track has a waltz-feel to it, swaying with a mix of time signatures and moods but always progressing. 'The River Flows' showcase Gopen's great acoustic guitar playing, whilst upbeat and classical-sounding Strings provides a little stylistic contrast. The album as a whole readily crosses genres and feels, with flavours of jazz, classical, and spanish-sounds to name but a few. It feels raw and poetic; look out for a surprise cover of Adele's Someone Like You which features a really lovely vocal.

I wish Gopen and Cemre well in their journey, and am very happy to share some very enjoyable music and such a worthy cause. Do visit the artist page here where you can listen to and purchase tracks or the whole album, where half the proceeds will go straight to charity.

Enjoy :)

Monday, 22 April 2013

Alexander Album Release - 'Say Hello'

You may remember our feature last month of UK indie rockers Alexander who, having recently signed to I Am Mighty Records, were pushing the release of their debut single 'You Lost Yourself'. As promised in the post, the Geordie quartet are set to release debut album 'Say Hello' on the 26/04/13 and I've had a sneaky listen to album-preview video (which is also available for you to listen to below).

Maybe I'm Wrong, track 2, sounds like one to listen out for, with picky guitar arpeggios and sandy-sounding half-time drums driving this guitar ballad whilst lead single You Lost Yourself sits confidently at track 3. Dividing the indie-rockers is acoustic ballad A Sweet Song which sounds particularly pleasant, before Bloc Party-sounding Vapour Trails picks things back up whilst the reverse guitar and uplifting feel of Old Fashioned Romance at the end of album stands out to me as the strongest track. The production and the song-writing is as good and current as the single suggested, however I feel the real stand-out tracks on this album are the slower ones; although the band seems to feel more at home with the energetic, indie-pop tracks, I sense a real calling with the half-time feels and obscure lead-guitar parts ringing out at the back of the mix.

This is, of course, just my humble opinion; why not decide for yourself and have a listen to the album-preview video below. If you like what you hear, be sure to support our up and coming artists and get hold of a copy from iTunes here when it drops on Friday.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Observing the Ghost: Burn the Tsunami

Back on British shores, Observing the Ghost are flying the flag for the South Coast here in the UK. You may remember their feature on the blog back in September last year; founded in early 2011, the quartet have been busy making a name for themselves touring and releasing, and 4th April saw the release of 'Burn the Tsunami', the band's first album since debut EP 'We Will Find The Sun'. The band have since performed at the O2 Academy Islington, supported Placebo drummer Steve Forrest's new side project, and signed to Coffee Jingle Records.

'Fragile' is the first track from 'Burn the Tsunami', kicking off the album with a definite nod to a string of great influences including Incubus, The Mars Volta, and Placebo. Technically it's a great track; really tight with its odd pushes in the extended intro but the vocals may not be to everyone's tastes, they feel a little strained in the higher register at times. Musically its a little disorientating but of course in a good way with an informed choice of dissonant chords as the listener is pulled from left to right in time with the ebbs and flows of the feels and genres explored. Halfway through, there's a great extended musical section akin to Incubus' 'Sick Sad Little World' as the guitar twists and winds, leading confidently whilst the rhythm section hold everything down and leads us back to some slight familiarity. It's quite a lengthy track, owed to the solo section in the middle, but sounds great and is a strong opener which sets the scene well for the rest of the album.

You can keep up to date with Observing the Ghost on Facebook, whilst 'Burn the Tsunami' is available now on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

New Artist Alert: Another Lost Year

Hailing from Charlotte, NC, Another Lost Year are 'creating an empire' in the alternative hard rock/metal scene which has seen the quintet share the stage with the likes of Almost Kings and Pop Evil whilst completing a vast nationwide tour across many states.

Lead single 'War on the Inside' is taken from 2012's album 'Better Days' which is introduced with lo-fi vocals and a nice picky guitar part which soon makes way for a trudging metal-ballad feel. The production is crystal clear on this track, as the band drive their way steadily through the first verse complete with wailing siren-like guitars in the background and a super rock vocal that reminds me a mix of Creed and Hinder. I can imagine this being a real belter live; it's got the perfect tempo balance between ballad and rocker which will confuse audiences across the Country: do we lift our lighters or headbang?! An extended guitar section leads flawlessly into the bridge before making way for the final double chorus, led effortlessly by the lead vocals. It's a great rock track that finishes just as strong as it starts, and one that I'm sure is bound to stir even more excitement for this very talented band.

Be sure to keep in touch with the band via their Facebook page for everything Another Lost Year, from tour dates to album availability. The EPK for the band, which kicks of with War on the Inside, is featured below. Enjoy :)

Saturday, 16 March 2013

New Artist Alert: Dear Stars - Hero In Our Eyes

Glaswegian rockers Dear Stars are the latest band that When We Were Beautiful is proud to feature. The quintet cite Kings of Leon, The Killers, and Mumford & Sons as influences of their sound, and there's definitely a nice marriage of these quite different bands evident in debut single 'Hero in our Eyes'.

It's a driving intro with a chugging rhythm section that really pulls at the time signature, whilst the stretching high guitar part adds a nice sonic balance, accompanied by Stereophonic-esque backing vocals. The track settles into the verse, with a squelchy, solid bass and 16s on the hi-hats holding everything together, providing a lot of space for the vocals in the mix which sound great. Everything opens up again in a rather catchy chorus and there's a nice lead line on the guitar that reminds me of Fortune Faded-era Chili Peppers. The second chorus bleeds into an extended guitar/backing vocal section before collapsing into what I assumed was a slightly empty bridge section but was in fact the outro. Although the track comes in at just under three and a half minutes, it felt like we could have gone around the chorus again; predictable perhaps, but there's always as much give as there is take in a band/listener relationship. That said, it's great to break the mould and the song is in no way lesser for having done so; it's an anthemic rocker that I'm sure sounds even better live.

Be sure to keep up to date with the band via their Facebook page, including how to get hold of the single and where the guys will be playing next. In the meantime, take a listen to Hero in our Eyes for yourselves below. Enjoy :)

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

New Artist Alert: Alexander

The newest recruits to the I Am Mighty Records family are Alexander, 4-piece indie rockers from Newcastle. The band are set to release their debut album 'Say Hello' in the coming months but for now, their first single from the record will have to be enough to whet your appetite.

'You Lost Yourself', for which you can see the video for below, is a good indie-rock tune, primarily guitar-led but with some obscure drums and heavy-laden backing vocals helping to carry it along. The chorus relies on crotchet-stabs in the guitars to take the rhythm as the drums are a little less structured, and it's nice to hear the guitars open up after the second chorus. The video is simple yet effective, if likely to leave you feeling a little dizzy, with a cool concept that's done really well but it perhaps wouldn't have gone amiss to feature a change of scenery at some point. That said, this is secondary to the song itself which is a classic indie track; it's simple with no real surprises but tight and current nonetheless.

You Lost Yourself is available for download from iTunes here, along with an acoustic version of the track, and you can keep up to date with Alexander by visiting their official website. Ahead of the album release, the band will be out on the road later this month, and you can catch them in the following cities:

March 22/Rippon, The Matrix
March 24/Leeds, The Library
March 25th/Glasgow Ivory Blacks
March 26th/Edinburgh, Electric Circus
March 27th/Newcastle, Think Tank

Check out the video for yourself below. Enjoy :)

Monday, 11 March 2013

Beat MS

I have been blessed with a healthy body and the gift of music, and thought I could combine these to set-up a fundraising initiative to raise money for the MS Society.

My aim is to take part in a 12-hour drum marathon on Friday 29th March 2013, in which I must always be playing, and invite local (Somerset, UK) musicians to donate some time to come and jam with me throughout the day. Chicken Shed studios, the home of Glastonbury Drums, have kindly donated the use of their studio complete with an extra drum kit, amps, and a PA system for the day, so all I need is some willing friends and musicians to keep me company and for people to dig deep to support this worthy cause.

The physical pain I experience will only be temporary compared to those who struggle with MS and face it on a daily basis.

I have set up a Just Giving page which allows people to donate money safely online, and also has my contact details for people to get in touch with me about taking part on the day:

Many thanks for your time, and I hope that you will be interested in helping to raise awareness of my cause.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

New Artist Alert: Stereoboy - Naked

Introducing electro indie pop artist Stereoboy, a Portugese duo with an agenda to create an all new kind of interesting pop with electronic vibes and guitar fuzz, to help reinstate and inspire the ideal of real garage bands and home tape-recording.

Stereoboy's debut album is set for release in April this year via PAD, and the band's first single, Naked, is available for download now. Naked is a free-floating slow-burner of a track, introduced delicately with an affected guitar-led ostinato before an electro groove helps the listener finds their feet. The track builds progressively across just over four minutes of music, as an unnerving chord change signifies the introduction of the sparse, dual-layered vocals. Musically it's rather repetitive but effectively so; it's a late-night lose-yourself sort of song signifying the transition at the party from chaos to calm. As it says on the tin, fuzz-guitar takes us into the thickest part of the track towards the end, still building cacophonially, before the music reaches a peak and everything falls over the edge of the waterfall and we're left with a quick-fade of a revisit to the intro section.

Have a listen to the track for yourselves below, and be sure to download the album when it's released. For now, keep up to date with all things Stereoboy by visiting the band's Facebook page. Enjoy :)

Sunday, 3 March 2013

New Artist Alert: Drew Holcomb & The Neighbours - Good Light

Hailing from Tennessee, Drew Holcomb & The Neighbours fuse authentic country, pop, and folk flavours to create a rich and organic sound. Citing influences such as Tom Waits, Tom Petty, and Wilco, and with 75,000 record sales under their belts, Drew Holcomb & The Neighbours are enjoying a casual stroll to the top, having shared the stage with the likes of The Goo Goo Dolls and The Avett Brothers.

Good Light, the band's sixth album, was released at the end of last month and provides music fans with "an abundance of Americana rock". The title track, and the album's lead single, kicks off with a wailing harmonica to set the scene, driven by great country-guitar licks, a grooving rhythm section, and some mandolin for good measure. It's an easy-listening, foot-tapping country ballad, with a whirling organ hiding at the back of the mix throughout verse one, before some great three-part harmonies lift the chorus and take the listener exactly where they expect to go. There is, of course, nothing wrong with a little predictability; the recipe has served the genre well for many years in the past and will continue to do so for many years in the future, and Drew Holcomb & The Neighbours are taking advantage of a resurgent musical genre whilst showcasing a real awareness in their songwriting abilities. We are treated to flashes of solos from the harmonica, organ, and electric guitar in turn throughout the extended musical interlude before the bridge makes way for a stripped down chorus, and we're left with one last run around the chorus and a harmonica-led outro. The track is appealing and radio-friendly and, for fans of the genre, is sure to be welcomed with open arms.

The album Good Light was released on 26th February through Good Time Records and Magnolia Music, and a US tour is set to follow. For more information on the record, tour, or anything else Drew Holcomb & The Neighbours, be sure to visit the band's official website. You can enjoy the official music video for Good Light below. Enjoy :)

Thursday, 28 February 2013

New Artist Alert: Shout Out Louds - 'Walking In Your Footsteps'

Announcing! Shout Out Louds, indie-rockers from Stockholm, are gearing up for the release of their latest album Optica, which dropped only yesterday. Having racked up a career of ten years in the industry, and a whistle-stop tour of plenty of sounds within that time, the quintet have settled on their most ambitious sound to date with Optica, which is finally released after over a year and a half in the making.

Walking In Your Footsteps is taken from Optica, and has a great indie feel with a little dance/electronic pop dusted over it for good measure. And any track that sets the tone with pan-pipes and a vibraslap is fine by me!

The video for the track, which is available below, takes us on a journey through light and dark; colour and shade, with a real dream-like quality that suits the song perfectly in its ambient, feel-good state. Staccato piano chords and choked cymbals raise the curtain, before classic indie-feel vocals settle the listener into the track.  A delicate female-harmony brightens the mix as the song progresses, whilst the chorus shyly sidles in unannounced; it's gentle and doesn't lift the song much but this works to the artist's credit as the listener ebbs along pleasantly. In short, it's simple but effective on the surface, yet hidden beneath are layers and layers of snatches of ideas and phrases, that all build subconsciously, taking the listener on a whimsical musical journey before placing them gently, and with two, steady hands, back on the ground.

Shout Out Louds have a US-tour planned for the Spring and, though I don't know when they'll be across the pond, be sure to keep up to date with the band via their official website. And of course, if you do live in the UK, at the very least you can get your hands on a copy of Optica, which is available through Merge Records. Enjoy :)

Monday, 18 February 2013

New Artist Alert: XSARA

When We Were Beautiful is proud to introduce XSARA, a singer/songwriter who is based in London and draws from her wealth of worldy experience and heritage to create a fabulous and funky fusion of pop, blues, and cabaret sounds. XSARA, of Egyptian and Swedish descent, grew up in Mississippi and draws heavily on a childhood richly soaked in the blues when performing with her 7-piece that is all about the experience rather than just the music.

XSARA is enjoying critical acclaim thanks to performances on BBC Introducing, who describe the act as "distinctive and gutsy", and has also featured on Emerging Icons and Q radio. You can view the live video for 'The Scriptwriter' which is a progressive and quirky jazz-riddled pop song that is only fully justified when enjoyed visually as well as audibly. XSARA showcases her great vocal range before brass swells and a soloing-harmonica bring the track to life, atop a grooving rhythm section. It's a real top-tapper and one I'm sure is just as suited in a dark and dingy jazz-cellar as it would be in a bright, sassy burlesque club.

The new album 'Are There Dragons in your Heart?' is set for release on the 22nd May, so be sure to keep up to date with XSARA on Facebook or her official website so you don't miss details of the launch. In the meantime, if your appetite is whetted, you can head over to iTunes and get yourself a copy of 6-track EP 'Are You Living in a Paradox?' which features The Scriptwriter. Enjoy :)

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

New Artist Alert: D8 Dimension

D8 Dimension are only too happy to pick up the rock-flag where Ravenous left off, and fly it high for the metal scene. Industrial/alternative rockers D8 Dimension are from Livorno, Italy where they began life in 2009, releasing their debut EP the following year. Since then, the band have concentrated on developing their sound and performing live across Italy before knuckling down to write the 7-track mini-album 'Octocrura' last year.

Octocrura kicks off with opener Vrock, an industrial rocker with whirring electronic undertones. Squealing guitars develop the intro before the strong vocals drop and help to carry the track along, with a heavy, pulsing rhythm section underneath. The music is tight and the production on the track sounds great; the band are keen to showcase their musicality throughout with extended instrumental sections, though I feel the choruses could carry a little more melody - it's there in the mix, but I think the guitar chords could ring out some more just to add an extra layer to the piece.

I couldn't resist having a listen to Poisoned Hamster, which is rather discerning with it's quick-paced vocals and half-time feel that develops into more melodious vocal phrases as the track builds and builds, gradually thickening throughout. The dual-layered octave split on the vocals is effective and effectively adds to the uncertainty created, whilst the guitars do their bit in winding, free-falling phrases. The track is greatly progressive and is easy to get lost - a great touch by the band which I'm sure audiences, live ones especially, lap up.

S.O.M.E. closes the album, which starts with some reverse-guitar and some rather unnerving piano. There's a feeling of being dragged through a timewarp, as the listener is pulled along with unsettling audio samples washing about in the mix before some slap-bass and a driving groove helps me find my feet. The track really showcases the band's song-writing abilities as they attempt to fuse genres of industrial, nu, and alternative metals, acting as a whistle-stop tour through half-time and double-time feels, easing off texturally before heavy, crunching guitars uneasily wrap up the track. The arrangement is complex but effectively so; it's busy but suits the genre well and rounds off a great-sounding album well.

Octocrura is out on 15th February, and you can keep up to date with D8D on Facebook where Vrock, among some older material, is available to listen to.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

New Artist Alert: Ravenous

It's all been a little quiet on the rock front round here lately but no matter, Ravenous have landed and are well and truly flying the flag for thrash-metal proudly and (extremely) loudly. Ravenous are a four-piece thrash/groove-metal band from Southampton, UK and have been performing under the name since 2008. The group started life as a covers band but, after a realisation that originals was the way to go, Ravenous returned to its rawer roots and lyrical structure. With 'an increasing appetite for anthemic and meaningful composition', the band have released their debut album 'We Are Become Death', for which you can hear an audio mash-up below.

The first single, Easter Island (We Are Become Death), is accompanied by the band's debut video which ties a bow (or perhaps chain is more apt?) around this extremely professional looking and sounding package. There's no mistaking who the band are with the extended slow-paced intro full of guitar-picked arpeggios and cymbal washes but once things finally kick in at the 1.18 mark, you know Ravenous have landed. The track is pounding and thrashes along packed full with powerful vocals, crunching guitars, a sloshy open-hats groove, and some double-pedal rolls for good measure. It's definitely a lot friendlier than the real screamo-metal stuff I sometimes find it hard to say nice things about; there's a real 'musical' feel to the music that you just can't help but nod along. It certainly packs an anthemic punch as promised, before sliding into the half-time feel of the intro and allowing the listener some thinking time. It isn't long though before we're dragged kicking and screaming as the band riles up again and takes us on a textured journey through the heart of the song, passing an extended-musical section that still has my foot tapping. Plenty of axe-wielding and some more tempo-stretching later, I felt like I've listened to the entire album rather than the first-single; at almost seven minutes long it's a beast of a track but I've loved every minute of it.

Ravenous perform regularly around the South of England, so be sure to check out the band's Facebook to keep up to date. You can listen to the album mash-up here, and the video for Easter Island is below. We Are Become Death will be released online on 16th Feb under Coffee Jingle Records.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

New Artist Alert: Sarah D

Every so often, it's nice to refresh the ears and the blog-content and offer up a little something different. Last week's feature of Mary at Midnight offered some respite, and Sarah D is only to happy to bring a little dance-pop to the table and continue to stir things up a bit. Though When We Were Beautiful tends to focus on the rock end of the musical spectrum, my main reasons for starting and pursuing the blog, which is heading for its 4th year, is to provide independent artists with some free exposure, with a little of my own opinions thrown in for good measure. So, here goes...

Residing in LA, Sarah D's dance-pop sound and hardy DIY attitude has ensured a great reception to 'Over You', her newest EP of which she cites influences from Kelly Clarkson, Jessie J, and Maroon 5's later sound.

Over You, the title-track taken from the EP, is available for a free download from Sarah D's Soundcloud page which I urge you to take advantage of. Who doesn't like free music and, who knows, you just might like it. Then you tell your friends, and they tell their friends, and before long you've helped contribute to the rise of a hard-working indie artist.

Over You certainly has a Kelly Clarkson feel with its dance-pop flavours and radio-friendly choruses. There's loads going on in the mix, in thanks partly to producer Andres Torres and the analog synths used to create the track.

Be sure to download a copy for yourself, and head on over to her Facebook page whilst you're at it to keep in touch with all things Sarah D. Enjoy!

Monday, 28 January 2013

New Artist Alert: Friend Slash Lover - Unaware

When We Were Beautiful is happy to introduce Friend Slash Lover, indie-rockers with a haunting undertone from LA, with their single Unaware which is taken from the latest EP 'The Grey Area'.

The video incorporates footage filmed entirely on an iPhone but certainly doesn't have an amateur feel; the black and white visuals of driving through lost streets adds to the mystery and eerieness conjured up by the music which pleasantly plods along with an electro-indie rock feel. The production on the track is great which, although at times slips in and out of your consciousness, has a very late-night radio-friendly sound. There's some lovely piano arpeggios that resonate wonderfully, and great harmonious backing vocals soothing in the background of the mix.

You can see the video in question below, and keep up to date with the guys from Friend Slash Lover on Facebook. Be sure to check out some earlier music and, if you're local to LA, try and catch them live if you can. Enjoy :)

Sunday, 20 January 2013

New Artist Alert: Mary at Midnight - Heads Will Roll

It's all been coming up a bit punky recently and every once in a while it's nice to reel things back in, take stock, and refresh. As this current wave of refresh breaks, the water ebbs and leaves behind Mary at Midnight on the shore with her beautiful single 'Heads Will Roll'.

Mary at Midnight is an 'enigmatic new artist' who is pioneering the 'dreampop' charge alongside Mercury Award winner Talvin Singh on Heads Will Roll, the debut single which is set for release on Feb 18th. The single has been described as featuring 'plush sounds scattered with... ambient waves'; this sounds a bit like an Ikea catalogue description to me, but nevertheless I've had a listen myself and can confirm the track is quite lovely.

Heads Will Roll delicately tiptoes into life with a thumb piano and Ellie Goulding-esque vocal harmonies before finding its feet with a simple electric pulse. The lead vocals are as fragile as much as they crystal clear; the production is quite something and the arrangement, although simple is wonderfully effective and current. A musical firework introduces the first chorus with intent before withering into the equally-delicate second verse. It's quirky, it tugs between a straight and swing beat, and, most importantly, it's different. It's a great pop song and the 'dreampop' tag is definitely what comes to mind; a perfectly rounded song with Native-American drifts here and sleepy, dreamlike whispers there which needs to be experienced.

You can listen to Heads Will Roll for yourself below, and be sure to check out Mary at Midnight on Facebook. Enjoy :)