Circus Of Bones – A Big No Body

When it comes to hangovers, I’m a heavyweight champion. Those minor bumps that I recall from my younger days when my head hurt a bit are nothing like the cuts and bruises that my body feels all over now after a punishing session. The ache and shakes that go on for days convince me that alcohol is best avoided in such quantity – and until the next celebration it is. 

The worst hangovers are undoubtedly those that come at the end of a mad festival weekend. I recall the journey home from Boomtown one year, convinced that I was on the way out such was the severity of the shivery sickness. I asked Photographer Phil to stop the car a couple of times just so that I could regain composure in a layby. When I got home, I curled up in a ball under my duvet and dealt with vivid dreams for the next 48 hours. Drinking to excess is really not cool.

In those under-duvet moments you can’t help but consider how your ‘normal’ friends have got it right. Never the life and soul of the party (because they’re not there), these are your friends who revel in routine; they get up at the same time every day and take their packed lunch they made the night before from the fridge. They work without conflict or ambition because such emotion would throw the from their equilibrium. Very little comes as a surprise to these friends; they live vicariously through the likes of you. They have a perfect, mundane life.

(And of course, these friends don’t really exist – you just imagine that they do when your wretched self is in the midst of hangover hell.)

Circus Of Bones have released an absolute gem in ‘A Big No Body’. The video, full of humour and timely moments of Speedo-Scratching just adds to the overall effect. Over a lazy cabaret ska-rhythm, we find Eddie from the band lurching from crisis to crisis as he tries to deal with his current demons and can’t even depend upon chickens as friends.

The band say that about A Big No Body – “Written in 2017 in response to the worlds worst hangover owing to a night on the whiskey at Edinburgh’s famous Sandy Bell’s, Eddie, finds comfort in the imaginings of “a settled life”. An existence devoid of fear and anxiety by throwing all ambition and expectation to the wind and accepting a future of mediocrity.

It’s an off-kilter tune for misfits; one you could easily imagine singing along to late at night in a packed festival tent – God, how I’ve missed such experiences in 2020. It manages to be both urgent and laidback, crazy and mellow. 

It’s like very little else that’s around at the moment. And I simply can’t get enough of it.

 

 

 

Kipani – Enlighten Me

After yesterday’s rant (here), I promised Pop for today. Good to my word that’s what I bring you this morning. I first heard ‘Enlighten Me’ by Kipani  about a week ago and knew straight away that it was right up Sonic Breakfast’s street. 

It will come as no surprise to those who know me well but I’m not the best at taking advice. I’ve tried to get better in recent years at seeing things from other viewpoints and at not taking criticism personally but my modus operandi when I perceive I’m being attacked is to fight back. I don’t think I’m as hot-headed when a document  I’ve crafted upon for hours is obliterated with red pen as I once was but I am now mastering the art of deep breathing, taking a step back and returning to the initial advice after a few hours. It does help and sometimes (though rarely of course) I can see that others do have a point. 

I’ve always been this way. I was a regular visitor to the Head Teacher’s office at my infant school. The six-year old Sean wasn’t badly behaved in the traditional sense; he didn’t get in fights (much) or break the well-considered rules but often took issue with the classroom teachers who were trying to force him down routes that made no sense. And hand-writing practice where you form a weird shaped S to sit perfectly between two pencil lines you’ve just drawn to a page with a ruler still seems like a stupid way to gain a writing skill. I’m glad that Ms. Morgan, the School’s Head, was happy to debate such things with me when the classroom teachers sent the unruly me to her.

I’m reminded of nieces and nephews, of friends who worry that their children are too wilful. And I tell them not to be. Compliance sits uneasily with feistiness and having an opinion on things yet I think I value the latter qualities more.

It’s been a long preamble (for which I make no apology) but in Enlighten Me, Kipani is sarcastically responding to advice offered. I guess in the music industry there are added layers of complexity at play when dealing with advice that’s being given. Insecurities, jealousies and a well-drilled perspective of ‘watching your own back’ mean that advice is often not coming from the best place. It still must be a tangle to unravel.

“There is definitely a lot of personal experience that this song is heavily influenced by,”, says Tiffany (who is Kipani) when I briefly ask her about it in the build-up to this post. 

“When you do something like this you are always opening yourself up to criticism. The worst advice I have ever received was actually from a music critic. They suggested rather than focusing on my own writing as an artist, I should instead build my career by lending my voice to other projects. Essentially gaining notoriety from what I jokingly refer to as being the “chick on the hook”. I’m so glad I didn’t take that one to heart! The best advice I was ever given was to stand behind your craft no matter how many likes it gets (or doesn’t get) and never let the feedback get under your skin or alter your opinion of yourself as an artist. It might seem like a simple thing but that outlook can sometimes get lost in this very judgmental industry.”

Enlighten Me is a pop song with a message. It’s dispatched with radiant charm, tongue-in-cheek confidence, assured vocal and singalong credibility. The dance moves from the chairs of Kipani’s co-conspirators are a joy to behold in the video once the song kicks in with an absolute belter of a chorus. 

The weekend is here. Let’s all kickback with Kipani. The world is a better place with Tiffany not being the ‘chick on the hook’ – of that we can all agree. 

 

 

Bladderwrack – Gammon

We need to talk about Brexit. I’m not going to mince my words here so if you have any sympathy for the clusterfuck that is the UK’s leaving of the European Union, you’d best stop reading now. Yes, that’s it, bounce off on your trotters. You are not welcome here. 

(Oh, that felt good). 

Insanely, you still bump into some supporters of Brexit here in Spain. There is just over a month to go until the transition period is over and we have left. Blind as bats, these advocates still drive cars with British number plates. They tell me that it’s not going to be so bad when it all comes into force. “the Spanish can’t live without me”, says the  Brit at the bar who seems to have no discernible purpose at all.

Can you tell that I’m angry? Just in case you can’t I’ll reinforce it by saying that I’m fucking angry. Over and over again until it hurts. Brexit messes up my ability to be here in Spain for any real length of time. It messes up my son’s ability to work here for any real length of time. For fucks sake, the basic foods are going to be in short supply, of shit quality and more expensive back home. “Ah, you’re just scaremongering – no pain, no gain”, says the man at the bar, proud of his invention in making up a little rhyme to emphasise his fuckwittery. 

Nobody has ever been able to give me one good reason  for Brexit.I feel that I have much more in common with the people here than I do with the arduous oiks back home who grunt at me monosyllabically when I suggest this is going to be a disaster of the highest order.

And today’s tune from Bladderwrack is on my side. It’s a perfect accompaniment to letting off steam. This two piece from Penge have delivered a gnarly piece of punk taking aim at the ‘Gammon’ across the British Isles. In a press release that made me laugh out loud, they mention that the notion of ‘Gammon’ has been around since the time of Dickens before calling on the Urban Dictionary for a definition. 

“A term used to describe a particular type of Brexit-supporting, Europhobic voter whose meat-faced complexion suggests they are perilously close to a stroke”, they say and you can’t say fairer than that.

Yes, it’s not placatory; it’s not unifying and it would probably help if we all just sat around a giant table and ironed out our differences. But, for now let me delight in a song that opens with the line –

I am on holiday, The Costa Del Sol, It used to be nice here, Until the Spanish took control.

promise to post pop music tomorrow. 

Freyr – Avalon

I’ve never been to Marseille. I do think that I’d like it there though. 

Most Mediterranean port cities tend not to disappoint. Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will know of my love for Alicante. Mad, Med  cities buzz with creativity, tolerance, historical relevance and cosmopolitan spirit. Overlook the cruise ships, the crime and the fact that Marseille is in France (joke) and I reckon you’d have a long weekend second to none.

 

It certainly sounds as if Freyr had a pretty neat time when visiting with a former lover – that’s how I’m interpreting the lyric to his new folktronica delight, Avalon. In a throwback to the summer months, we find Freyr and his friend in hazy mood and romantic waywardness as they explore the mean streets, the monuments, the rocky outcrops, the beaches and river beds together.

The feeling doesn’t last – these things never do as the utimate verse is at pains to point out (spoiler alert) but, whilst they do, why not revel in the warm bliss of that moment? The beat is fuzzy, the vocal toned, the backing organic and the guitar woozy as; it all comes together in a wonderfully reminiscent nod towards place and season. 

Freyr comments in a brief E-mail exchange that, “The melody for Avalon was inspired by all the Temples around Vancouver. But it needed some lyrics to go with it and this trip to Marseille was still very fresh in my mind. But I don’t like saying too much about lyrics. I like the audience to be free to conjure up their own vision.”

Your challenge for the morning is set.

Che – Mystery Team

To my shame, I’ve never been one who has spent much time in the kitchen. The thought of cooking up nice soups or of baking my own bread has always been an attractive one but the reality has always been that speedy, convenience takes over when other priorities come to the fore. I’ll put some toast in the toaster and boil a kettle if I must.

In the past, I’ve grudgingly nodded as friends have talked about the joy of the kitchen in terms comparable to the joy of sex. I’ve secretly thought that their exuberance is a tad misplaced and that Jona Lewie was probably onto a good thing when he associated kitchens with parties.

Now, I’m not saying that lockdown has changed me – old habits die hard – but I am conscious of a shift in my thinking. I’m not in the soda bread territory quite yet but I am scouring recipe books to find new and exciting things to do with a lentil. Whisper it quietly but I enjoy cranking my music up to loud and seeing what I can concoct. A newfound interest in kitchen pottering does not however mean that I’m putting myself forward to do your Christmas dinner.

Evidence would suggest that we’re all getting more familiar with our kitchens over lockdown. Che certainly has. The video for his single, Mystery Team, finds the David Bowie enthusiast taking on different guises and poses. We can’t help to be stirred as he batters his way through this steaming-hot tune for our delight. 

There are nods to Bowie. I’m pretty sure that some of the lyrical references within obliquely draw attention to Bowie’s initial efforts in 1966 and his dalliances with Tin Machine in the late 80’s yet this is also a track that stands on its own. It’s exuberant rock ‘n’ roll and lo-fi self-made garage (via the kitchen) whipped into one. You’ll have read the recipe before but will feel no contempt for the familiarity that breeds. 

Che has cooked up a kitchen treat here. I could pun all day on this but I’m probably better off just posting the song and boiling the kettle for my morning coffee. Over to you. 

 

Jonathan Levy – Lover Boy

I’m still in Spain. I wasn’t really planning to spend this long over here when I left Blighty back in July. But the virus is raging and I’m now not there for Autumn back home. I have no qualms about missing the most miserable of seasons. Waking every day to bright blue skies here more than makes up for that disappointment.

That’s not to say that it’s all sunshine and laughter over here. There’s a new chill in the air that gets positively biting at night. With no central heating and porous walls, this villa feels the cold more than your standard terrace back in the UK. Tonight, I loaded the fire with wood from the garden and kept myself warm by prodding and poking away at the twigs as the flames flew up the flue. 

Fireside joy (and it is captivating to watch the flames tell their tales as they create their crackles) needs a solid sort of music; for me, you can’t beat a strong dose of acoustic folk when the orange hue is raging. The lyric has to be right; you don’t want a morose, break-up tune or, god forbid, a murder ballad right now. Such songs are better suited to the gently glowing, dying embers at the aftermath. This moment calls for declarations of love that has lasted the distance.

And that’s what you get in Lover Boy from Jonathan Levy. Our hair might be falling out or changing colour and our bodies have most definitely gained a few pounds but we’ve got each other as a constant. This is a tune about stability, about growing old gracefully and fanning the flames of love. 

Jonathan delivers the acoustic ballad (that builds with cinematic flourish) impeccably. Think of the Beatles at their most romantic crossed with Elvis Costello minus the gravelly voice and insane wordplay and you might be in Jonathan’s ballpark. His vocal goes semi-falsetto during the sweet chorus – there’s more than a tinge of Ben Folds in the tone though Jonathan uses guitar rather than piano as his primary instrument. 

The logs burn. The duvet beckons. It’s going to be a cold night. I settle and smile as the consistency takes hold and the future maps out. 

Third Girl From The Left – Oxygen

 

I will never tire of the views of nature from this Spanish terrace. I’m waking earlier these days and there’s no better way to begin them than by making a brew, sitting in silence and taking it all in. 

The birds sit fifty feet up on the single electricity cable that connects the villas along this track. The distinctive shape of the spectacular hoopoe bird reminds me (as if I’d ever really need it) that this is not England. I get a glimpse of their exotic colours, their regal head-dresses and I smile that this is my morning garden. 

The unmistakeable horn-squawk of a peacock blasts out from behind the fig tree. These royal Indian birds roam wild around here, the local farmers saying that they’re good for keeping snakes away. But these scrawny samples are not the elite of their species; they’re far removed from the glorious extroverts who spread their feathers for fun and a tip at National Trust properties across the UK. These poor cousins, manky scavengers with limps and dirty coats, spend their days pecking away in their packs and trying to find a comfortable space for their ablutions on this terrace once I’ve headed back inside. 

“You were in my garden”, repeats Third Girl From The Left in the dreamy folktronica chorus/bridge of her debut single “Oxygen”. I listen to the track on the terrace. It meanders and trips through a spoken word section that chimes with the best of Polly Scattergood before giving way to a beautiful birdsong for a chirpy finale. It’s adventurous and delightful, whetting the appetite for more.

Third Girl From The Left is from Devon. Not much is given away when she enquires by E-mail if I might feature Ovygen. I like the brevity and the mystery of her approach. 

The press release informs us that she combines field recordings with breathy vocals and an arsenal of instruments, including a much treasured 1920’s zither banjo. It also lets us know that the video has dancer and choreographer Nicky Burke performing on her kitchen worktop.

There’s more than enough flowering in this track for regular readers of Sonic Breakfast to get their trowels into. 

 

 

Philip Parfitt – All Fucked Up

 

Back in the day, when I was a teenager depending upon public transport about as much as I do now, I’d sometimes get ‘the milk train’ back from gigs and night outs in exotic places like Bournemouth or Poole. I didn’t question why there was no milk being delivered by the train – curiosity for such anachronism came later – in fact, often in a world of my own, I probably had no idea that the delivery of milk by train had largely been phased-out a generation before. 

Getting the milk train was just another way of saying that you were getting the last (or first) train home, that you’d invariably had a crazy night, lost track of time as you tried even harder to impress that girl at the ice-skating rink and would likely be falling asleep in class later that day. 

Mention of the milk train throughout is one of the things that draws me to the recent single, All Fucked Up, from Philip Parfitt. The way that Parfitt keeps referencing the journey home on the milk train as he languidly looks back on what has gone before is a pure delight; was it a night that saw eyes meet across a crowded dancefloor for the first time? A crumpled business card thrust in the hand of the smiling other as the clock ticks desperately nearer to the last chance saloon of the milk train. You rush to just about catch it and now sit back to feel a sort of fuzzy glow as you wonder if you’ve just met the one. You doze in and out of consciousness on the train home as dreamland beckons.

All Fucked Up is a track taken from Philip Parfitt’s album, Mental Home Recordings, that was released a few days ago on A Turntable Friends Records. It’s woozy, boozy and dripping with the sensibilities of Lou Reed. It manages to perfectly capture the optimistic yet sleepy milk train mood and I love it.

Nuit Oceãn – Fire Divine

Hey Sean,

Hope your day’s still rocking! :), We have noticed that you have previously supported Elliot Moss and have a similar artist to share with you Downtempo Producer Nuit Oceān who released his  EP and  music video titled ‘Fire Divine’ via  ROUGE NEON RECORDS..

I like receiving mails such as this. Targeted and clear, you can be pretty sure that when you do listen there’ll be something within that appeals. It might now be six years since I’ve written about Elliot’s music but his influence still shimmers across Sonic Breakfast. The post about ALMA just this week (here) being a very clear case in point. 

So, I listen. And then I listen again. Steve Mesmin, the Bordeaux-based producer behind Nuit Oceãn has released one of those tracks that you like very much but you’re not sure why. The lyric, sung in an impassioned and vocodered falsetto soul, a repeating loop of verse and chorus, culminates in the stark word, Fool. It’s mournful and you wonder what dark place Steve might have been in when he created this. There’s a sense of giving your all and being let down and yet so beautiful and calming is the accompanying music that drawing any definite conclusions cannot be concrete.

Perhaps this ambiguity of feeling is exactly what Steve is looking to create in his EP? Content from the press release would appear to corroborate. 

“I always have this “mantra” in my head during the creating and recording process: “When there is nothing left. When you no longer have the strength to move forward. There he is, in each of us…” The FIRE DIVINE guides us to a better version of ourselves, towards a brighter future. Let it flow.”

A song about reaching rock bottom and then coming out fighting on the other side; an ambiguous breakdown that signals a rage of positivity. As many of us enter tougher and restrictive measures to our movement this November, it’s perhaps a tune that we can all take into the dark nights with us. 

 

ALMA – Fall

A month or so ago now, I received a mail from ALMA. Super-polite and humble, Alba, Mel and Lillie asked if I might consider writing about their debut single, Fall. 

They attached a live video and I watched, transfixed, as the song built with a haunting pleasantness. “Try writing about this and not using the word ethereal”, I said to myself as I hunted down my Cocteau Twins Thesaurus. 

Repeated listens in and the melodies and harmonies continue to wash over me, the provider of all sorts of honest chil. It’s absolutely one of those songs that allows you to wallow and to bathe in your memories from years gone by. 

“Fall is a nostalgic elegy to childhood and growing up. We joke that it was inspired by a quarter-life crisis, but it has become much more of an appreciation of memory and our roots.”,say ALMA by way of explanation. 

A name jumps out at me when I look at the credits and I realise that the super-talented Elliot Moss is the mixing engineer for this recording. I assume that this is the same Elliot who so encouraged me to keep writing Sonic Breakfast posts when this site was in its infancy. There’s hardly likely to be two such talents with the same name in New York? For those visitors to Sonic Breakfast unfamiliar with the story of Elliot’s generosity, it can be read about here

Highspeeds, his debut album, still gets a frequent spin in these quarters. I confess though that, to my shame, I’ve not delved into Elliot’s later releases with such diligence. Perhaps now will be the time to do so.

But not before I listen again to Fall from ALMA and give more thought to Sonic Breakfast’s childhood; the tentative Spring steps giving way to a spirited Summer and a recent sense of maturing after migration.