Elaine Blake – Back Door Man

“She describes herself as a sensual, spicy and happy go lucky person and her music translates these qualities perfectly. Her latest offering ‘Back Door Man’ is a joyous song inspired by her eldest son’s love for cooking in the kitchen at the back of the house and the beauty of friendship.”

So runs part of the press release that I received this week to accompany a new tune by 63 year old, Elaine Blake, a former Labour Party councillor in Newcastle Under Lyme who has roots in Nottingham and Jamaica.

There’s no doubting this is a joyous song. Indeed, I haven’t stopped smiling since I played it for the first time earlier this evening. I’ve sent it onwards to friends and, whilst some of them have poked fun, most have received ‘Back Door Man’ with warmth, appreciation and openness. 

Truly, I’m not getting how Elaine’s eldest son’s love of cooking has inspired her to write this soft reggae pop but I can see there’s something of the beauty that comes from friendship within. 

I wonder if it would get Radio airplay? I wonder how it would do as an entry in Eurovision? Have lovely weekends Sonic Breakfast readers and try not to choke on your cornflakes. 


Seafret – Tell Me It’s Real

 

I first became aware of Seafret at Festival No. 6 last year. I was reviewing at this wonderful festival, set in the architectural delight of Portmeirion (review here) for eFestivals. I kept getting sent invites to extra curricular things that I could indulge in.

One of these things was a special press invite to the Nespresso construction on site. I would be treated to coffee cocktails and canapés concocted by an award winning barman/drinks chef whilst being entertained by some live music. For the sake of journalistic investigation, I put aside my moral and political objections to Nescafé for an hour or two. 

As the midday sun beat down upon us, we reclined on comfy garden furniture, elevated from punters below, whilst the two members of Seafret, Jack and Harry, played us acoustic versions of their tunes and answered questions that we fired at them. I put aside an overwhelming desire to ask about ‘celebrity lookalikes’ (lead singer, Jack, has incredible hair that’s in the same spectrum as Sideshow Bob) and instead asked about secrets of songwriting, dreams and influences. 

Jack and Harry proved themselves to be decent, affable, young chaps from the North East. They had a gentle, positive ambition which shone bright like the sun above. The fact that the amplification provided by Nespresso was barely fit for purpose didn’t phase them. These were songs about love that screamed ‘Radio 2 hit’. I went and saw their full band set an hour later. 

Seafret’s first album, ‘Tell Me It’s Real’, comes out next week. It’s not an album that’s going to get raved about for pushing the boundaries of art but it is an album choc-a-bloc with solid songwriting, powerful husk-fuelled vocals and tunes that build from acoustic shuffles into fully blown epics. Those who like their lyrics obscure or their melodies random might level accusations of bland cliche at Seafret but I’m sure they’re big enough to ride such criticism. 

As befits a band from the North East named after a sea mist, the influence of the coast permeates within many of the songs. In ‘Oceans’ (rhymed with emotions), the sea gently crashes into the shore as Jack agonises that it ‘feels like there’s oceans between you and me’. My favourite tune that they played at Festival No. 6 was ‘Skimming Stones’. Here they are on a rocky coastline ‘like a skimming stone, waiting to be thrown back to you’. Elsewhere, they draw on the legend of ‘Atlantis’, comparing the mythical sea-based city to the state of their relationship. Their folk-based origins come to the fore in ‘To The Sea’, a song that Jack sings in duet with the seductive voice of Rosie Carney. ‘Do you think of me when you look to the sea?’ they sing in an elevated, passionate state. 

‘Tell Me It’s Real’ is an album full of love songs. Some of the songs are sung to distant, long-lost lovers whilst others are much more for the here and now. If you’re ideal of happiness is keeping warm around a late night log fire, entwined in the limbs of the love of your life, then I’d bet you a coffee cocktail that you’d love this particular record. 

 

Diet Cig, Saltwater Sun & INHEAVEN – London Lexington January 14th 2016

Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will know that, on those days when I work in London, I’ll choose to take in a gig in that fine city rather than getting a train straight home. It means that I don’t get home until the early hours but, invariably, being tired at work the next day is a price that I’m willing to pay. 

So, last Thursday I was down in London. I got the chance to go and see a stellar trio of bands as part of the Five Day Forecast mini festival, a week of shows put on by The Line Of Best Fit at the Lexington. TLOBF gaze into their crystal balls and predict what’ll be grabbing our attention in 2016. 

I signed up mostly because I was intrigued by the headline act, Diet Cig. This was part of the New York slop-pop duo’s first venture to the UK and, in truth, Noah and Alex didn’t disappoint. This was a whistlestop whizz through their fuzz-laden tunes that have been creating such a buzz. It lasted no more than half an hour and each song was over before it began.

 Alex breathlessly bounces around the stage; she climb onto speaker and drum stacks as she unleashes thrashy chords and trashy (but fabulous) lyrics. I’m sure that we’ve all seen doom-laden posers offers similar postures before but Alex contrasts with their strut; for this is a joy-laden, breeze of energetic happiness. London is urged to dance; it’s a step too far for some of the cool kids in the front but, if they’d turned around, they would have seen a healthily full Lexington getting washed up in the infectious enthusiasm bounding from the stage. Brilliant.

 

It’s almost embarrassing to admit it but I’d never before been to the Lexington. What a fabulous live music venue it is. The downstairs bar serves up an impressive range of American beer and whisky. With staff that seem genuinely happy to serve you (by no means a given in London), it’s a place where the lone gig-goer immediately feels welcome. I settled on a draft pint of Big Wave Golden Ale, brewed by the Hawaiian company, Kona and went upstairs to watch the two bands on before Diet Cig. 

Saltwater Sun had something. They appeared slightly nervous about the experience but really shouldn’t have been. Perhaps the broken string on an earlier BBC Introducing session (they made reference to this) still haunted them but they took a little while to get going. My notes suggest that there was a Cardigans influence going on here but, in truth, they probably weren’t alive at the Nina Persson peak. There were rock shapes thrown and enough tunes within this set to show why more on the ball bloggers than I have these down in their ones to watch list in 2016.

 

 

 

The same was true for INHEAVEN. Very true in fact. Much has been made that this is a band giving us another slice of shoegaze but I didn’t entirely see that. Yes, they made a trembling, expansive noise but there were tunes here doused with classic Americana splurge. They looked the business on stage and it’s no surprise to see that festival bookers are getting themselves in a frenzy after their standout show the following night at Eurosonic.

 

So, all told a fab night of wonderful new bands. All of them different; all of them with that magic spark that makes you smile. On the evidence presented, 2016 could well be a belter. 

 

Passion Falls – Chasing Ghosts

Today is all about a new band from Manchester called Passion Falls. 

 

They’ve got their first EP, The Greatest Adventure, coming out in February. I’ve now heard two tracks from that EP and I’m suitably impressed. Their thing appears to be an evocative, emotive indie electronica. Vocalist, Jonny Holland, has an expressive tone that yearns back to the trenchcoats of the 1980’s; this is your bang up to date McCulloch, Mcaloon and Cole. 

These are tunes about regrets and ‘what might have beens’ if life had panned out differently. They’re songs sung to lost loves from long ago; nostalgic nods to relationships that failed to last the course. 

And we all need more of those types of songs don’t we? I bet we’ve all got at least one ghost in our past that we periodically search for on social media? We only ever slow danced at the school disco with them in our minds and yet it’s still one of the most vivid memories of our past that we have. 

I was going to post the video for ‘The Greatest Adventure’ onto Sonic Breakfast before Christmas. But then top tens, antibiotics and the perils of the party season got in the way. The newly released tune, Chasing Ghosts, acted as a further prompt. 

Passion Falls whilst distant dreams grow.


 

Alpenglow – Solitude

alpenglow

ˈalpənɡləʊ/

noun

the rosy light of the setting or rising sun seen on high mountains.

“the red granite flickered warmly in the evening alpenglow”

So, here I am on a train journey to London. Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will be pleased to know that I’ve got my headphones back. This is making this generally grey day more pleasant as I’m able to listen to tunes in solitude.

There’s no chance of seeing an ‘Alpenglow’ today – there’s no sign of the sun – but none of this matters because I can bask in the warmth of the new track from Alpenglow, the band.

“If I wanted my solitude, I’d move to the city. If I wanted to be with you, I’d move to the woods for a little while“, sings Graeme Daubert in the opening lines of this gem. There’s some truth in this. Later today, as I often do when visiting London, I’ll sit by myself in a coffee shop or pub and derive great amusement from watching the world bustle by. I’ll probably chat with nobody (my headphones will act as a barrier). I’ll collate my thoughts, centre myself, stand/sit firm and find happiness in my solitude. 

Alpenglow recently moved from Vermont to New York and that contrast between rural and urban really jumps out at you in this tune. It’s a mountain folk tune played with all sorts of modern electronica; Daubert’s voice is angelic, pure as the driven snow (whatever that means) but with an edge of urban grit. This is the sound of Vermont descending upon New York, of the Peak District becoming Manchester.

The smog will pollute the innocence of Alpenglow. But for now let’s revel in the rosy light. 

 

 

 There’s also a video here, a live recording of another track from Alpenglow’s forthcoming album just in case you still doubt their essence. 

 

 

 

Karel Ullner – Closer To Your Body

I was sitting in a packed train carriage catching up on Sonic Breakfast things after a busy day in the day job.

‘Finland’s answer to Justin Timberlake‘, said the introduction to the press E-mail that I’d  received about Karel Ullner. I confess I didn’t actually know that JT was asking questions in Finland but I kept reading anyway. Despite my general appreciation of cheesy pop, I couldn’t help thinking that this wasn’t going to float my boat. 

 The release continued:-

 “Karel’s upcoming single ‘Closer To My Body’ is a melodic portrayal of a sound that has recently been described as “fully finished, well produced and ready for urban dance clubs” by New Yorker newspaper Scarsdale Inquirer. The lyrics describe a special moment between two people in a club drifting into their own bubble of consciousness.”

 This was getting better. I can’t say I’ve ever experienced a special bubble of consciousness moment myself but it sounded most pleasant. Bless Karel for being able to give me some insight here.

 I scrolled down to a picture of Karel. The man sat next to me got a glimpse of my I-pad screen and started to awkwardly shuffle. 

 

Another insight into Karel’s life was revealed:- 

 “Having grown up in an artistic environment and being able to meet people such as Sir Paul McCartney during a session at the studio have contributed to Karel’s enthusiasm and determination.”

 I wondered if Karel and Sir Paul had experienced a bubble of consciousness moment. 

 “The songwriter has used music as a way of overcoming personal struggles and feelings of exclusion after having had to deal with bullying during his school days. Through music, he has found true friends and a more positive meaning in life.”

 Whoops – I’m sorry Karel – I’ve not been able to help myself. 

 There’s little else to do now that your appetites are whetted to an unhealthy level of frenzy than to show you this somewhat steamy video. It’s probably not necessary to point out that although Karel is getting quite excited that the love of his life is closer to his body, she chooses to remain in a separate location throughout, miles apart in their bubble. 

 Boy, I’m such a bully. The song actually grows on you in contagious pop fashion. 

 

 

 

 

 

Delaire – Don’t Move

I’ve left my headphones at work. This is an inconvenience seeing as I’m not now back in the office until Friday. I’ve got a few days of train travel coming up. I really should get a cheap pair for emergencies such as this. 

I had it all worked out when I saw the E-mail hit my inbox today telling me about Delaire’s new single, Don’t Move. Here was a track of shimmering disco funk from the London based songstress. After a day holed up in the office, I planned to do the exact opposite of the instruction in the song title. I’d get home, cook myself some soup and then plug in my headphones for a bit of a silent boogie around the coffee table. I wouldn’t want to disturb my neighbours on a Monday night. 

Delaire’s not an entirely new name to me. In the latter months of 2015, I’d found myself quite taken by her first single, Belief. If I’d have been blogging more back then, I might well have featured the fine, tear down the cheek, atmospheric video that accompanied that tune. You can see from that where the comparisons to the likes of Jessie Ware and London Grammar derive from. 

So, I’ve had to listen to the new single, Don’t Move, through the slightly tinny output of my I-pad. It’s by no means a disaster and I’m still getting the urge to shuffle on my sofa. Any song that begins with the lines  “Jealousy is not for me, I know you’ve seen her more. Her blonde hair, her underwear, I know you’ve seen before” is setting itself up to be a winner in my book.     

Of course, I might have misheard that lyric given my inconvenience. 

As ‘Don’t Move’ progresses, the opening verse of Chic-like funk gives way to a burst of Donna Summeresque disco pop. An imaginary Tina Charles very nearly takes me by the hand and says “Fuck it, you don’t need your headphones to dance around the coffee table to this one Sean”. But Tina’s too polite to swear in such a way. 

And so I remain on my sofa, generally appreciative of Delaire but slightly annoyed that I have no headphones and very aware that I need to put this right.