Month: November 2016

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    Can’t believe it’s taken me this long to realise most recruiters are full of shit. Not to mention the ones that tell your boss stuff.


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    Lucid by Scarlett Taylor

    Lucid by Scarlett Taylor is a very strong footing from which her career seems to be growing well from. Her unique, almost-derelict sounding aesthetic is something to be enjoyed, with Scarlett never afraid to lay her voice bare against these haunting soundscapes. “Monster Movie” from this debut album is a perfect example of this.

    Although she is relatively new, in terms of her music’s exposure to the world, she has already managed to carve a unique niche for herself. It is clear that not only did she find her footing with this album, but she dug both heels in and continues to push forwards into new and interesting musical avenues.

    I got mommy issues
    Daddy issues
    Money Issues
    Holes in my shoes

    Mommy Issues by Scarlett Taylor

    If you are new to Scarlett’s music then this will be a great introduction to what she’s all about. If, like me, you are listening to this album after “Churches“, then you’re already a fan and are in for a treat.

    Stand out songs

    If you go by SoundCloud listens alone, then “Purple Bones” is clearly the most popular song from this album. I do like that song, however my personal favourite from “Lucid” is the fifth song, “Mommy Issues”. It’s one of the album’s heaviest with its distorted guitar filling this song’s larger-sounding atmosphere. It’s one of the heaviest I remember hearing from Scarlett, which is always welcome.

    “Monster Movie” is another favourite, and is closer to the style I think of with Scarlett’s music. Her voice filling the stage while only a very small arrangement accompanies her. This song’s arrangement comes in the form of a melody played on a slightly over-driven electric guitar.

    As with “Churches”, this album is music to get lost in and experience. It shouldn’t be put on with the kids yelling or as a communal office affair. This music is a personal statement and deserves to be experienced as such.

    You should buy Lucid here.


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    Virginia Soundtrack by Lyndon Holland

    In Virginia the soundtrack is a first-class citizen. It’s not simply just a well-written collection of pieces made for each scene, but additionally is a living, breathing creature itself. It weaves its way through you when listening, conjuring images either from the rural Virginia of the game’s setting, or any other place you care to find your mind wandering through.

    Even playing the demo, the title screen alone has such a beautiful score that I was instantly hooked.

    Virginia – A brief description of the game

    Just to give you some context, the game has absolutely no talking in it whatsoever. You progress the story by investigating the current area, essentially playing through an interactive film. All conversations between characters are handled by well designed scenes; expertly-timed reactions and shows of emotions; and the score which seamlessly takes you by the hand.

    The story is about an investigation into a boy’s disappearance, which soon leads to a bigger conspiracy overall. The two protagonists find themselves in a town very similar to Twin Peaks. In fact the aesthetic that the developers went for was Twin Peaks / X-Files / Outer Limits. And they nailed it with both setting and characters. The soundtrack for me however, is the real main character in Virginia.

    Also worth mentioning is that this was recorded live by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. It was recorded in the same location as both the ‘Lost Highway’ and ‘Mulholland Drive’ film soundtracks were. ‘Lost Highway’ and ‘Mulholland Drive’, in case you didn’t know, where both made by David Lynch, as was Twin Peaks.

    Soundtrack as a character

    Like any great character, the soundtrack to Virginia is consistent whilst remaining varied enough to stay interesting throughout. Even though the soundtrack blends seamlessly together, much of it is still distinctive enough to be able to pinpoint the scene of the game I remember it from.

    A number of key pieces stand out for me as being particularly memorable. The first piece I remember loving, I actually heard from the demo I played before. This is called “In Dreams” and, as the title suggests, accompanies a dream sequence had by our heroine. It ends in a unique, abrupt way that brings back the feelings of its creepy scene instantly.

    “Little Thugs” is different in that it’s probably the most frantic sounding, which fits its scene very well. It’s also one of the few pieces to be diegetic, meaning it is music whose source is actually shown in the film (in this case from a portable stereo owned by some thugs).

    One other stand out piece, also seen within the game, is called “Sojourner’s Truth”. I truly don’t know how to emphasise the power of this song within the scene, and indeed in its own right. This piece of music is absolutely dripping with that ‘Twin Peaks Vibe’. If you hadn’t seen Twin Peaks for a few years you could be forgiven for thinking that this is from it. But please don’t think that it’s a poor-person’s Twin Peaks. This song, and indeed the whole soundtrack, comes from a place of huge admiration and respect for those influences, and stands high as the best homage to the previously-mentioned shows I have ever seen or heard.

    Debriefing

    In short, the soundtrack to Virginia is one of the best I’ve ever heard – and I mean out of all soundtracks; not just games. I have included my favourite scene from the game below, with “Sojourner’s Truth”, but I highly recommend actually playing the game through yourself to experience the whole package first-hand. It’s a short game, clocking in at about and hour and a half for me, but it is one of the best games I’ve ever played.


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    Who You Selling For by The Pretty Reckless

    “Who You Selling For” by The Pretty Reckless sounds to me to be their most ambitious album to date. Their third full album release sees them stepping up their game, incorporating fresh sounding elements while still holding on to that signature “Reckless” sound. Each Pretty Reckless album has been longer than the last, with this one maintaining that tradition, clocking in at just over 50 minutes.

    Who You Selling For

    This album didn’t quite open like I expected it too. In place of a thumping rock jaunt, there was a calm, soothing piano piece accompanied by Taylor Momsen’s softly-sang words. This soon gave way for the fading in of a, dare i say it, Tool-esque riff. This opening song on the whole felt like they were experimenting with their sound; pushing their boundaries stylistically. On this song alone, I felt the next 11 songs were going to be a new experience; different from what I was used to hearing from them.

    Taylor Momsen
    Taylor Momsen

    The following 2 songs, “Oh My God” and “Take Me Down” take me back to that recognisable ‘Reckless sound’. The latter of the two was the album’s first single, and a great choice it was too. The drums are accompanied by an almost tribal-like bongo sound with a cool guitar rhythm lick. “Take Me Down” got me back on the familiar ground with their signature sound that I’ve come to love.

    Momsen’s voice is just as great as it always was too – if anything she sounds stronger vocally. Listening to the song “Already Dead” reminded me why Taylor’s vocals put her up in the top end of her league.

    Upping their game

    The rest of “Who You Selling For” continues to peak my interest throughout. They could have released another “Light Me Up” and I’d have been happy, but this release shows that they aren’t afraid to try new things and aren’t using their great sound in a cookie-cutter fashion. From the blues-infused “Prisoner”; to the heavy belters “Wild City” and my favourite off the album “Living In The Storm”; to the 3 minutes of breathing space that comes with the titular song. This album has much variety and forces me to pay closer attention to each song – pulling me further into the music.

    As surprising as the opening to this album was, the closing was more so. Again, based on previous albums, I was expecting a certain style in the closing song – instead they gave me the super-funky finishing song “Mad Love”, whose opening could have easily have lead into an awesome cover of The Beegees’ “Stayin’ Alive”.

    “Who You Selling For” demonstrates The Pretty Reckless at their strongest. A band not content with remaining in known safety, they are stepping up their game whilst still holding on to that signature ‘Reckless aesthetic’.


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    5 of my favourite debut albums

    Buckingham Nicks by Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks

    Buckingham Nicks by Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks

    Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac in 1974 to make its ninth, and most well-known, line up. But just the year before, the two had recorded an album together called “Buckingham Nicks”. As a guitar player I was hugely inspired by Lindsey Buckingham, so when I found out about this album it felt like I’d struck gold.

    Some of my favourite songs from them both appear on this album. “Frozen Love” has one of my favourite guitar moments from Lindsey; and Stevie’s Voice sounds so great on “Races are Run” and “Long Distance Winner”.

    The harmonies that these two manage to produce together are simply phenomenal. 

    Light Me Up by The Pretty Reckless

    Light Me Up by The Pretty Reckless

    In a time when I was a little bored with the contemporary rock music coming out, and was just discovering Lorde; Lana Del Rey et al, I heard a song on the radio called “Heaven Knows”. The big sound of the band and heavy vocals of Taylor Momsen had me instantly hooked. From that song I immediately sought out the album, “Going To Hell”, which naturally led me to their previous – and debut – album “Light Me Up”.

    “Light Me Up” is such a great rock album. It has everything from super-catchy heavy romps to the stripped-back and beautiful closing “You”. This is album would definitely be a desert island disc for me. 

    Pure Heroine by Lorde

    Pure Heroine by Lorde

    Lorde – the lady who absolutely blew everyone away with her powerful tribute to David Bowie following his passing. She is definitely one of the few truly unique artists of recent times. She has a style that is so uniquely her own and her stunning debut “Pure Heroine” is a testiment to that.

    The biggest hit off the album is undoubtedly “Royals”, which is where I had my first taste. Well, to be more precise it was Weird Al Yankovic’s parody cover “Foil” which led to my looking for the origin of the song.

    As soon as I pressed play and heard the absolutely stunner “Tennis Court” I was an immediate fan boy; I was obssessed with the album – to some degree I still am. 

    Same Trailer Different Park by Kacey Musgraves

    Same Trailer Different Park by Kacey Musgraves

    When it comes to country music I am mostly in the dark. Except for my being a big fan of Kris Kristofferson, and of course Johnny Cash, I never really sought out any new country music. That was until I was introduced to Kacey Musgraves by web designer Andy Clarke in his album review.

    Since first hearing it I played it every morning on my drive into work. I would even intentionally drive slower so that I could hear the whole album before arriving. The opening, “Silver Lining”, is one of the most welcoming songs I’ve heard on an album.

    Every corner of “Same Trailer Different Park” is as genuine a country album we could ever hope to hear.

    Atlas by FM-84

    Atlas by FM-84

    Over the past 12 months I have been diving into a few new genres than what I was used to. There’s been grime; pop; and there’s been synth wave. Synth wave is as cool as it sounds. It’s a style of music with the intentional sound and aesthetics of 80s film / game soundtracks. Think John Carpenter; Tron et al.

    The first artist of Synth wave I heard was an artist called ‘FM-84’, real name Colin Bennett. His song “Running In The Night”, co-written with Ollie Wride, absolute blew me away and made me wish I had become self-aware in the 80s. The whole album feels like it was both made in the 80s and is an ultimate tribute to the 80s. Every song on “Atlas” is a complete joy to listen to. 


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    Interview with French Electronic artist Hante

    During my recent exposure to synthwave music, I have discovered an exciting French Electronic artist by the name of “Hante”. Her music edges towards the darker side of synthwave, and is one of the artists who is easily identifiable among her synthwave contemporaries. Whenever I hear a song by Hante, it feels like Hante.

    I have written up a review of her release, “Between Hope and Danger” too, which you can read here.

    I was excited when she agreed to answer my questions. Please read on below to find out more about the lady behind Hante.

    The Interview

    Please tell us about yourself in as many or as little words as you like.
    Hi! I’m Hélène. I’m behind the solo project “Hante“. Since the beginning of the year, I’m running my own label “Synth Religion” in the beautiful but sometimes suffocating city of Paris.
    Growing up, who were your heroes in music?
    As a kid, I was fascinated by Freddy Mercury, his voice, his charisma. Queen has been a huge part of my childhood’s soundtrack. Also, Serge Gainsbourg, Michael Jackson… But the discovering of Radiohead when I was a teenager, has been a massive turn in my music tastes. The album “Ok Computer” was and still is a real masterpiece and a big influence for me.
    Growing up, who were your heroes outside of music?
    I was really into Cinema and I loved lots of characters and actors. I think about the french actor Louis de Funes, Robin Williams (more than amazing as Peter Pan in Hook), the kids in Stand by Me and in The Goonies, Elliott in ET, Wednesday in The Addams Family, among so many others…
    What was the first album you remember buying?
    Honest answer: the soundtrack of Aladdin lol. But if you mean the one who really changed my life, as I said before it’s “Ok Computer” from Radiohead.
    Was there any defining moment in your life when you knew that you wanted to make music?
    I started taking music theory courses, piano, harp and singing lessons really young, so music has always been a big part of my life. I was composing stupid depressing music in my bedroom when I was a teenager. But the turn was at the beginning of my twenties when two friends of mine started a metal band. They asked me to write some lyrics. We were in the rehearsal room and I started singing shyly on the chorus. They said “You have to be our singer”. It was one of the most exciting moment of my life, like “OMG I’m in a band!!” haha. Since then, nothing made me feel more alive, prouder of myself, than composing music and playing on stage.
    Who is your biggest influence in how you approach what you do today?
    I would say Depeche Mode (all their 80’s albums), a mix between dark, emotional and new wave sounds. But of course, a lot of bands influence my work nowadays. For each album I composed, I was really into two or three bands and it inspired my work a lot. For my next album for example, I’m really influenced by a french band called Las Aves. I love their bass synth sounds, it’s very contemporary. I also love the latest album of Bat For Lashes, I love the cinematographic approach.
    What is the proudest moment of your career so far?
    I would say my performance this year at the WGT festival in Germany. It was the first time I was playing alone in front of so many people. And even if I have to admit that it was not my best performance so far, I felt very proud to have done it all by myself. I’m kinda shy and discreet in my everyday life and this is amazing how you can be different on stage. I feel powerful and confident, it’s a real therapy for me!
    What is your favourite Book?
    I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a while since I’ve read a book! So I would say a collection of poems that my grand-mother gave to me. The title is “les cent plus beaux poèmes de la langue française” (The hundred most beautiful poems of the french language). It inspired and still inspires me a lot.
    What is your favourite Album?
    It’s really hard to say, because I’m always obsessed by a new album. But I would say that the last huge crush that I had was a few years ago, “Sentinelle” from Xeno and Oaklander.
    What is your favourite Film?
    “Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind” from Michel Gondry or “The Big Blue” from Luc Besson.
    What is your favourite TV Show?
    I absolutely love TV shows, it’s my favorite hobby. So I don’t know what to choose! Maybe “Friends”, a classic one, but the best finale is without hesitation the one of “Six Feet Under”.
    Do you have a favourite film/tv/musical soundtrack?
    “Virgin Suicides” from Air, the soundtrack of the Sofia Coppola movie that I absolutely love too.
    Are there any new albums you are binge listening to at the moment?
    “Die in Shanghai” from Las Aves, “The Bride” from Bat of Lashes, “Everywhere I go is Silence” from Box and the Twins that I just released on my label, I’m absolutely in love with this album!
    What other artists should I be listening to?
    It depends what kind of music you want to listen to! Gold Zebra, Xarah Dion, Hørd, CONFRONTATIONAL, Selofan, Ash Code, Kælan Mikla…
    You’re walking somewhere and your mp3 player has only a little battery left; You’ve only got time for one more song. What song do you play?
    Right now, I would like to listen to “My Lady Blue” from Eric Serra, the beautiful song of “The Big Blue” soundtrack. I have it in mind thanks to this interview!
    What advice would you give to your younger self?
    Don’t waste your time trying to find a B plan, follow your heart and make music your A plan right away!!
    If you could ask any person – living or passed – any question, who would it be and what would you ask them?
    To be honest, I find this kind of question really tricky lol. You try to think about something smart and then something more personal but it would be too self-centred compared to all the funny, tragic, essential questions you could ask to all the people who are living or lived in this world. So I decide to not ask anything!
    Could you tell us a joke?
    I’m more the kind of people to laugh to other people jokes than the kind to tell jokes!
    Also, do you have any plans to play in the UK?
    Nothing planned for now, but I really would like to play in the UK in 2017!

    Thank you Hélène

    A big thanks to Hélène for taking the time to answer these questions. I really appreciate the time it has probably taken to read through all these questions and answer them as honestly and completely as she has.

    If Hante does play in U.K. in 2017, I’ll be the first one at the door.


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    I really don’t like Longbridge


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    No Hard Feelings by Hante

    Listening to No Hard Feelings by Hante makes me feel a lot more cultured than I am.

    Hante is a hugely talented Electronic / Synthwave / Darkwave artist hailing from Paris, France. Her music is darkly melancholic that completely envelopes you when you listen.

    I always imagine myself sat in some smokey underground Parisian nightclub when I hear it.

    The E.P. has five songs and each one is golden. The first one I heard was actually the second song, “À Contrecoeur”, which Google tells me is French for “Unwillingly”. Everything about this song oozes cool. The opening twangy lick on what I think is an electric guitar; The main awesome synth attack melody that comes in at about the thirty one second mark; Hante’s haunting vocals mixed with the awesome wall of sound that she has created. The song, and indeed the entire E.P., is an amazingly powerful, dark electronic experience.

    Nothing’s gonna happen
    I’m sinking in a fantasy
    If we love each other
    Why can’t we be dreaming together?

    Living in a French Movie by Hante

    “Une Nuit Avec Mon Ennemi”, the third song, has yet more catchy, dark heavy synth melodies arranged with her ghostly delivery. This is how dark synth should be – dark but not depressing.

    In “Quiet Violence” Hante seems to push herself further with her vocals. She sounds bigger; more commanding in the delivery and the song is one of the E.P.’s biggest-sounding as a result.

    On the whole this music is some of the most interesting I’ve heard in a long while. While I love all the music I write about, “No Hard Feelings” by Hante is in a small collection of exceptional recordings that are completely fresh to my ears.

    Anybody looking to broaden their own musical tastes and need a tip on where to look – look no further than Hante.

    Please head over to Hante’s Bandcamp page and buy her music.


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    HANA E.P. by HANA

    Hana Pestle, stage name HANA, is from the same musical camp as artists like Grimes, in that she writes, records, produces and performs all her own music. This makes her music undeniably her own, with its own distinct sound.

    Her E.P., eponymously-titled, stands as a testament to her abilities as a complete recording artist and a bloody good one.

    The songs on this E.P. are ethereal in sound and feeling, but her powerful, commanding voice gives the songs some real weight. There are lots of cool audio sample effects and loops throughout the twenty two minutes of the HANA e.p. too. I don’t think she’d had much production experience under her belt when making this E.P. but her experimentation and persistence really paid off to give us one of the best E.P.s of the year.

    Like my father and my mother
    I will love you for forever
    Hold my hand and dive now sister
    Breathe with me underwater

    Underwater by HANA

    HANA is someone that truly has that “special something” that you can’t quite put your finger on. I mean, yes she knows the ins and outs of her craft; and yes, she has a tremendous vocal and songwriting talent, but there’s also something that is greater than the sum of the parts.

    As an aside, if you ever get a chance to see her perform live you should. I saw her earlier this year both supporting Grimes as well as performing in her band with her. From that performance alone, it’s obvious that she isn’t just a performer of this great music – she is it’s creator and its master. She weaves the music to her will for a truly captivating show that you just have to experience.

    For me, HANA is on the same footing as artists like Lorde, Lana Del Rey and Tove Lo. It’s no surprise that many of her contemporaries too are big fans. Take one listen and you will be too.

    You can buy HANA e.p. from iTunes.


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    Lady Wood by Tove Lo

    Tove Lo is an artist unafraid to use sexuality in her work. Whether that be in her lyrics; album title; or the album’s accompanying short film, “Fairy Dust”. That sexuality isn’t used for shock or as an empty attempt to gain followers, but is instead part of the deep rooted feelings behind her music.

    Lady Wood” came across to me as Tove Lo’s most consistent piece of work to date. Don’t get me wrong – I love “Queen of the Clouds” – but something about her latest release seemed more consistent; more conceptual. These songs are tied together really well, with every single one of them being an absolute killer that grow with every listen.

    A confident, more focused, second album

    With the lighting of a single candle, experimental effects and a beautiful-sounding synth, “Fairy Dust (Chapter 1)” ushers us into the world of Tove Lo’s “Lady Wood”. It’s definitely one of my favourite intros to an album this year, and leads really well into the first full-length song, “Influence”.

    “Influence” is an infectious steady build for the album and peaks brilliantly at it’s chorus’ awesome deep bass line. I remember the synthesizer’s sound in particular stood out to me, and fit in perfectly with my recent obsession with synthwave music.

    Following “Influence” comes the album’s titular song “Lady Wood”, which is also a favourite of mine. Another steady build up with soft, minimal percussion lead to one of my favourite lyrics from the whole album:

    I know what people say about you
    They say the same about me
    I don’t care if it’s all true
    I want you hanging with me

    Lady Wood by Tove Lo

    “Lady Wood”, the song, also comes across as a slightly reined-in club dance hit, which is a nice breather before the absolute belter that comes next, in the shape of “True Disaster”.

    As I mentioned earlier there is an accompanying short film to this album called “Fairy Dust”. One of the stand out parts of that film was in the performance of “True Disaster” – all in one continuous take by the look of it. It was seeing that performance that made this song in particular stand out the more as being one of my favourites. Like many of the songs here, it builds up really well and peaks with an absolutely banging chorus.

    Featured Artists

    “Lady Wood” includes some interesting featured artists across a couple of the songs, none of which I’d heard of before. In particular the album’s mid-way song, “Vibes”, features a chap called Joe Janiak and has one of the most interesting chorus deliveries of the album. “Vibes” almost comes out of left field, in that its opening is performed on an acoustic finger-picked guitar. It gives the album a stylistic change to the music contained up till this point.

    No, let’s not put a label on it
    Let’s keep it fun
    We don’t put a label on it
    So we can run free, yeah
    I wanna be free like you

    Cool Girl by Tove Lo

    The rest of the album’s second half follows suit by blasting out great song after great song. There is a great use of electronic samples and synthesizers throughout this album that just serve to increase my addiction to it.

    Not one of the songs made me want to skip forward – if you’re going to listen to this album, then you will listen to it. Just listen through the first minute of “Keep it Simple” and tell me the synth drop doesn’t kick ass.

    A Sprinkling of Fairy Dust

    As well as listening to “Lady Wood”, I also strongly urge you to take half an hour to watch Tove’s film “Fairy Dust” – and probably not at work either. Watching this film really gave me an extra depth when listening to the album after. I’m not going to pretend I understood the story 100% or that I got all the metaphors etc, but as a piece of art and an album accompaniment, it’s first class. Just watch Tove Lo’s performance in the opening scene and you’re sure to be pulled in immediately.

    You can buy Tove Lo’s “Lady Wood” on Amazon today.