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Single of the Week: Unconditional by TJ Doyle

As the debut single from the as-yet untitled third album, TJ Doyle’s Unconditional is a statement of intent both powerful and dazzlingly sweet. Taking his cues from the likes of Neil Young and The Heartbreakers, Unconditional is a sixties-tinged fable about the inevitable passing of time, with love being time’s true constant.

Both compelling yet distinctly un-showy, Doyle creates elation with his sparring guitar work: think former Chilli Peppers guitarist’s Beach Boys obsession taken to the extreme, and you’ll have some idea of how ingratiating and delicate Doyle’s axe-work is. There is an effortlessness to Unconditional that contrasts well with Doyle’s lyrics of digital confusion: something that brings the singer-songwriters purely human preoccupations home in an ear-pleasingly melodic fashion.

What is most impressive is how aptly Doyle uses his own vocal presence, keeping it just low enough in the mix to complement his musicianship, while playing to his strengths as a singer. His refrain of “Love is power/ for you and me”, is less a line, than a vocal riff, harmonising perfectly with the delicate guitar-work, ad subtle drums.

Unconditional may be Doyle’s best song yet, signalling that difficult third albums are something that happens to other people.

Album Review: Sparks Rain Down from the Light of Love

The Grand Undoing (Bostonian Seth Goodman’s musical alias) wants you to look a little closer. At first glance, his new album is a traditional collection of rock songs, with a sprinkle of other genres here and there. A collection of songs about love, loss, and the heartbreak that comes with it. Take another look, even the title will give you a clue: Sparks Rain Down from the Light of Love. Of course this brings to mind the romantic image of a lover’s embrace: sparks fly at the moment of the kiss. But sparks are also flammable, the same sparks that symbolise passion can also be used to burn everything down, and as The Grand Undoing, Goodman is all too aware of this.


Take the albums lead single, Most of All We Just Go Around- a jazzy rocker about the mistakes we make over and over again following the most dangerous emotion: love, “We get high/ we get low/ but most of all we just go around” describes both the pitfalls and the exhilaration of doing it all over again in one short chorus.
The trick is then repeated as Goodman takes on a different theme on Living in Amber, a song about life grinding to a halt, and trying to romanticize it through the golden glow of the amber. He knows the fallacy of standing still, and the feeling of being trapped outside of things which it conjures.
At the heart of Sparks Rain Down from the Light of Love is a collection of ten short stories set to music. With each song Goodman sets the scene for each new tale: in Falling From a Plane he introduces us to a room with “terracotta strewn across the tile”, each track drawing the listener in. Each song, while sharing the same components  (rackety guitar, shrewdly deployed strings, Goodman’s unique vocals) have a distinct personality. The title track begins with a grand string arrangement before an almost R&B drumbeat transitions the song into a traditional rock anthem. Opener Sing Yourself Home, and Let the Big Ball Go make use of some Jimmy Page style power guitar , with the former introducing it in the songs outro which works a lot better than it has any right too, and in the latter to add strength to Goodman’s delightfully petulant vocals.
The albums best song, Key Biscayne, highlights Goodman’s mash-up of different musical eras. The opening guitar and keyboards, sound eerily like The Cure on Seventeen Seconds, which, somehow, seamlessly transitions into the kind of chorus reminiscent of 60’s pop, ending on a languid piano, and strings which brings to mind The National. The fact that Goodman makes all of this sound compl3etely natural on a song that isn’t even three minutes long is a triumph.
Sparks Rain Down from the Light of Love is the sophomore album that every artist dreams of. Goodman has improved as a singer, musician, and songwriter, and is essential listening for any music fan. It comes out 30th September 2016.

Single of the Week: Thirst by Mt Doubt

As summer draws to a close, and music blogs all over the country have to stop using “Song of the summer!” as a selling point for every track they cover, it’s time for a different breed of single. The kind you can listen to while your stomping around kicking puddles in a big coat because you never know when the weather’s going to turn. A song of the Autumn, if you like. And I think I have just the thing-

This is Thirst, a fabulous little single from Edinburgh-based group Mt Doubt, and I think I might be in love with it. It’s got a rich, decadent quality, with a full, layered backing track that neatly sidesteps self-indulgence. Thirst is the kind of thing you could see being played over the ending credits in an indie romcom, but in the best way that I can invoke that in your imagination. It’s a distinctive new track from the two-year-old group, and I’ll be keeping an eye on their future appropriately-seasonal releases. As, of course, should you.

Single of the Week: eW.A.F.T by diNMachine

Wow, this song was an experience. diNMachine’s latest single: eW.A.F.T. basks in the mission statement described in the band’s name. You see din is the noun used to describe prolonged, disruptive noise, but is also a verb used to describe the process of learning through repetition.

With eW.A.F.T., taken from their forthcoming album The Opposites of Unity, diNMachine toe the line between disruption and equilibrium. The music, tinged with numerous cultural influences, is enthused with the free flowing energy of a transcendent jam session, as well as sounding intricately composed and plotted. There is a story in this song, a story that can change with each listener as each key, or tonal change, send you down a new thematic corridor. One minute it sounds like the best anime theme song ever, the next it’s soundtracking an emotional breakdown in the subway, or it’s none of those things, or all of them at once. Not to sound too clichéd (already missed that boat) but it takes you on a journey, a walking tour of your own imagination which is being blissfully manipulated by these sounds. eW.A.F.T. is a challenging, and rewarding listen, a song that speaks volumes even if it has no lyrics.

diNMachine’s LP, The Opposite of Unity, will be released on 9/9/16.

By Kevin Boyle

 

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British Bands to Watch: Those Unfortunates

When I was but a young thing, I was into music very like the kind that Those Unfortunates produce- the kind of light touch, bubbly, guitar-driven pop that’s present on their latest single, Letter Writing Man.

I’m a sucker for self-awareness, and this little tune has it to spare. In a landscape full of groups creating big, bombastic, stern-faced symphonies, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in something that brings me back to a time when I was happy with witty lyrics, a punchy chorus, and a little bit of British eccentricity. Another single is due next month, with the album planned for later this year, so give this a listen and get in early.

Single of the Week: Most of All We Just Go Around by The Grand Undoing

Like any great pop song about a serious subject there is an uneasy alliance between the light and the dark, and that’s exactly what we get from The Grand Undoing’s new single Most of All We Just Go Around. Taken from the bands sophomore LP, Sparks Rain Down From The Lights of Love, Most of All We Just Go Around is a ramblingly melodic ode to repeating yourself.

Many of us have been unlucky in love, making the same mistakes all over again and expecting a different result, and that is what The Grand Undoing  (real name Seth Goodman) taps into on this song. “We get high/ we get low/ but most of all we just go around”, he sings in the chorus, wilfully repeating the highs and lows of each relationship, but also romanticizing it in the music. The song plays like a bar-room ballad, to be played while looking at the bottom of a glass, and there are some hints of addiction in the songs subtext. With cheery guitars, an infrequent, but jiggy piano riff, Goodman is celebrating the romantic nature of our very human mistakes, all of which take us “back to the source again.”

By Kevin Boyle

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Single of the Week: Dark Waters by Dan Lipton

American music has two hearts, urban, and rural. There have been countless songs about New York and other cities, indeed when most think of the American musical landscape, it’s The Velvet Undergrounds New York, Nirvana’s Seattle, and Springsteen’s New Jersey. Artists and places that are so intrinsically tied together. That’s the first heart. The second belongs to the travelling troubadours like Dan Lipton.

Dan Lipton’s elementally moody single “Dark Water” reaffirms his travelling heart. He stays in one place only long enough to get some rest, “Woke up in Brooklyn/Waves crashing at my door/ Rode a ferry just to stay in motion.” Dark Water” is Lipton on the run from his problems, pleading that the water cover up his woes. It’s Americana, and the romanticism of escaping. There’s a sense of finality at play here, Lipton has run out of road and is faced by the sea, it’s not so easy to keep moving so he tries to make a deal. Have the sea swallow his heartache and his journey can be done.

“Dark Water” certainly belongs in America’s second, rambling heart, but it asks the question of what happens when you have no more road left. Let’s hope Dan Lipton can find this answer so he can bring us many more tales of American woe.

Single of the Week: Say Yea by Savoy Ellis

When you hear about music from Los Angeles, it’s usually something…well, something pretty produced: electronica, EDM, glossy indie pop. So when I heard about Savoy Ellis, a singer-songwriter from California creating something in the realm of neo-soul, I was instantly interested. With a degree in English Literature behind him and a few years studying piano and vocals to perfect his craft, Savoy Ellis’ music seemed to promise a certain lyricism beyond the manufactured pop that seems to populate the charts.

And, with the release of his latest single, Say Yea, I can confirm that that is indeed the case. It kicks off with a full, inviting beat, the production just on the right side of boundary-pushing, keeping the old style R&B feel without sacrificing innovation. With warm vocals that challenge Marvin Gaye for his monopoly on “seductive”, it never rests into it’s love-song laurels, always hanging on to an edge of longing that keeps it from sounding too generic. Smart, gorgeously constructed, and endlessly re-listenable, this is the summer jam you never knew you needed in February.

Single Review: Reindeer Romp ‘n’ Roll

Christmas music is an entire genre of its own, yet there are very few Christmas songs that stand the test of time. Sure, there’s Slade and The Pogues, bands that whose names have wreaths around them when they pop into your head. Then there’s bands like the Killers and Coldplay: whose Yuletide songs were quickly, and rightly, forgotten.

Of course there is another way to go: gather an eclectic bunch of singers and musicians who can bring each of their own musical vision to the festive season.

Which brings us merrily on to Reindeer Romp and Roll: the stand-out track on the collaborative album A Colorful Christmas. The song, courtesy of Fetal Records, is a jazz infused spaghetti western track, sung brilliantly by six year old Jet Watling. This is no ordinary Christmas song-this is the kind of song that could eerily soundtrack any alternative Christmas movie. I dare you to not think this song would sound badass sound-tracking John McClaine’s action packed Christmas at Nakatomi Plaza. This is the cool kind of song that Quentin Tarantino would use to soundtrack a gun fight between Santa and all the bad children wanting revenge and it’ll improve your Christmas no end.

Single of the Week: Spin by Matt Lande

The white guy and his acoustic guitar has been done to death. I mean, Ryan Adams has a lot to answer for, but Matt Lande wants to go one better. He’s not interested in pouring his heart out with one piece of wood. No, he crafts full band songs all by himself, and that’s not what popstars are supposed to do.

His new single Spin, the first track off of his upcoming album Glow, makes the statement that he is a fully formed pop-rocker. It’s surprising that there aren’t more like him, but so many popstars have to be part of a group or rely on producers to come up with anything even half as good as this. Lande himself seems as if he should be firmly planted in indie, but his melodies are far too catchy.

Spin, a song about burning desire, begins with the kind of riff that Kings of Leon make at their most famous, but Lande cuts through it with a smooth vocal, both raw and yearning. He even gives in to a little acoustic bridge but just before you think it’s going to take over the song bang, and we’re back to rock.

Matt Lande is a welcome tonic to the manufactured pop that constantly drowns the charts- for once, let’s have an artist with a bit more sincerity to them.