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. 

 

 

 

 

Reverend and the Makers – Mirrors

Like many other bloggers and people who claim an interest in music, I often fall into a big trap when it comes to established artists. In our relentless pursuit of the new, the unknown and the interesting, it’s easy to get sniffy about those acts that have been around for an age. This is especially true if we only gave them a reluctant nod of praise when they first became known. What could an act on their fifth album, unless they’re called Bowie or Radiohead, possibly say that’ll inform me? I won’t be able to claim that I was first to write about the Sound of 2018, after seeing them play in a phonebox, if I spend my time and energy listening to the sound of 2007 will I?

More fool us. Let’s tame this particular shrew and hate it less when our friends become successful.

I confess that my response to receiving a number of PR mails about Mirrors, the latest album from Reverend and the Makers, was a case in point. Rentacrowd quotes from Noel Gallagher saying that this was like ‘one of those great concept albums from the 1960’s’ and from Carl Barat suggesting that this was a ‘magnum opus’ only served to heighten my sense of sniffiness. Surely, the state of things was that nothing on this record would be a ‘heavyweight champion of the world’?

Jon McClure has always struck me as a decent chap whenever I’ve seen Reverend and the Makers live. There was one particular year at Summer Sundae, the now sadly defunct Leicester festival, where Jon was the talk of the town for his exuberant frontman performance. My good friend Paul, a lifelong Sheffield United fan, almost forgave McClure for being a Wednesday fan during that gig. My sniff is without foundation.

Even when McClure explained the process behind the new album, I dismissed it as a protestation too much: –  “Ed (guitarist and fellow songwriter) and I became resolute to make a record that we loved. Why not indulge the overwhelming urge to not play games anymore and set about making some art we are actually proud of rather than the release tour festivals repeat cycle we’d been on since forever. And so we took the files we’d been diligently recording off to Jamaica and spruced them up a bit whilst making a film. The result is the best thing we’ve ever done in my opinion. The reaction when I play it to people is like nothing I’ve seen before, except maybe the first album.”

It was only in the lull between Christmas and the New Year that I chose to look into ‘Mirrors’. I’m disappointed with myself because it is very good. It’s not without fault and there are some tracks that do little more than fill for me. But, in the two tracks I’m posting on Sonic Breakfast today, Makin’ Babies and Last To Know, I think there’s enough simplicity, craft and songwriting guile to open the eyes of the biggest cynic. 

For me, it’s another lesson learnt. 

 

 

Dusty Stray – Blood Trail

I’m reminded that, back in the chaos of 2015, I was sent a video from Dusty Stray’s new record. I was also sent a link to that album, ‘A Tree Fell And Other Songs’, which was being released early in November.

I exchanged some E-mails with Jonathan Brown, the incredible talent behind Dusty Stray and confirmed that I was definitely going to write about ‘Blood Trail’ on Sonic Breakfast. But then, the stuff of life got in the way and I stopped updating my blog.

I say to all who’ll listen that it was a perfectly treatable skin cancer without really stopping to think about the effect it had on my head in those Autumn months. As the trees became bare so did my cupboards.

Born in Taiwan, Jonathan Brown grew up in Texas as a son of a preacher man. Raised on songs about death and resurrection, he began writing his own songs taking influence from early American folk music. Travel, dead end relationships and forming freak folk bands led him to a place where he’s now based in the Netherlands. Jonathan curated the recent SnowApple video that I featured in my Sonic Breakfast Top Ten of 2015.

A Tree Fell And Other Songs, the fourth full-length Dusty Stray release, was written in a small, lone trailer in the flatlands of Holland alongside the dead end of a river. The twelve original songs illustrating “dead end” relationships flow into one another in a natural, organic way. It’s a fine listen if you want to indulge in a bit of melancholy. 

‘Blood Trail’ has a haunting, memorable lilt. It’s almost got the feel of a murder ballad save for the fact that nobody dies. I asked Jonathan what the song was about: – 

“It’s all about a somewhat traumatic childhood memory of when I was about 7 or 8 playing in the dirt/mud along our driveway — making some kind of “castle” or something — and some neighborhood kid came along and completely destroyed it. I was so angry that I picked up a nearby brick and threw it at him hitting him in the head and causing a lot of bleeding and screaming. He turned out to be ok — didn’t even need stitches — but the image of that little blonde-haired kid suddenly blood red-haired sitting on our kitchen counter while my mom was helping him is still with me. And I think that was my first and last violent act…”

I love this. Have a happy weekend SB readers. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ladies – Pretty In My Heart

Something changed for me last year. 

Ever since I moved to Leicester a dozen or more years ago, I’d spend three or four nights each week being a consumer of local music. I’d go to cold, flea bitten holes (all of which have now closed down of course) on Tuesday evenings to watch bands who were just starting out and often not very good. Sometimes, I’d watch these bands grow in confidence as they developed their stagecraft. Often, bands would split up after their opening gig. 

I can’t put my finger on a time when the magic went. But it did last year. I’m now enjoying staying in and only venturing out to gigs where there’s a purpose; typically, this means going to larger venues to produce ‘fucking shit’ reviews of touring bands. 

Who knows if I’ll get my love of the local fleapit back?

On one of my rare forays out in 2015, I came across Ladies (that’s not as crude as it sounds). Here was a band who were clearly still finding their feet and developing their stagecraft. But already I could tell that this three-piece had the seed of something special. More than anything, I could tell they had songs. They were both derivative and utterly modern at the same time. They had a slightly shambolic swagger and yet were captivating to watch. I got to know their lead singer and songwriter, Chas, who impressed with his general approach and attitude.

A couple of months ago, I received an E-mail from ‘Ladies’. They’ve relocated to Liverpool. In many ways, this is a move that makes entire sense. From the Beatles to the La’s (and beyond), Liverpool strikes me as the sort of city that appreciates jangle and melody. That’s the space that Ladies sit within and I’m not at all surprised that, a few months after moving, their gig calendar seems to be full and bursting. 

Ladies are a band to keep an eye on. How knock-out is the chorus in this tune ‘Pretty In My Heart’? 

 

 

 

Louis Berry and a scathing Saint Raymond gig review

“If someone tells me I have to go out there and impress some people because they’re important to my career, I’d rather go out there and really piss them off. Because this should be about the songs and a belief that everything else is bollocks. I walk around thinking ‘people in Liverpool, can’t you see what they are doing to you?’. There’s so much to say and no one is saying it. I’m going to be the lad who does.”Louis Berry

In a couple of weeks time, I’m lining up a chat with Louis Berry. He’s playing at Nottingham’s Bodega on the 19th January as part of a short headline tour. It wasn’t long ago that I saw Louis play in Leicester when he supported Saint Raymond. I reviewed the show for the Leicester Mercury but I’m not sure if my words ever got published. In truth, I was quite scathing about the headliner and I can understand why an editor might have opted for an easy life.

Anyway, waste not want not (and all that) – I’ll publish my uncensored review here…

 

I look at my watch and despair. Saint Raymond have only been playing for forty minutes in the second room at Leicester’s O2 academy but it already feels like a lifetime. It’s not simply because he’s from Nottingham that I take such a dim view. One song, with bland,subtle variation, is played over and over again. Repeat until it’s really not funny.

He’s the master of monosyllable is Callum Burrows, the man behind the moniker, Saint Raymond. ‘I want you to know that, I want you, you know that’, he sings in yet another jaunty, catchy, raise your hands in the air, singalong pop by numbers blow-out.

Yet it would be churlish not to admit that this man with very little to say does seem to say a great deal to his fans. Young female students have graduated from Ed Sheeran, Olly Murs and One Direction. They now have a new poster boy for their university bedsit and Burrows is it. Surrounded by a faultless band, the crowd sing, clap, dance and wave their phones to the innocuous, choppy pop on offer. “Let’s carry on dancing, I want to tire you out”, smiles Burrows. I yawn.

Callum plays a cover. I only know it’s a cover because he tells us so. The crowd cheer wildly after every dull syllable he states. He tells a story about making a video in a taxi in Manchester with Thomas Turgoose, a potentially interesting tale in the hands of a somebody less boring. He plays two songs without a band that fail to resonate.

More impressive is Louis Berry, the scouse support act with jug ears, a cheeky grin and a charming swagger. Sometimes he veers a bit too close to Jake Bugg for comfort but when on form, you can see the Johnny Cash crossed with Arctic Monkey influence. Plagued throughout with sound problems, it seems to distract Berry from his full game. “We can’t hear what we’re playing”, moans Berry. It has rebel attitude, bite and enough skiffle based melody to suggest that, on a good day, Louis will be one to watch.

Ever one to consider the positives of a situation, as I leave the venue I think it could be worse. A poster of forthcoming gigs is thrust into my hand and I notice that it’s two days away from a Scouting For Girls gig. I thank God for small mercies.

 

I was a grumpy bastard towards the end of 2015 wasn’t I? I’m more than confident that Louis will continue to impress throughout 2016 and he’ll have a great deal more to say than Saint Raymond.

 

Sam GO – Gringo

I never did take a gap year. I convinced myself that I’d find time to roam the world once college life ended. But then work got in the way; debts needed to be paid and I became a fully signed-up member of the rat race.

So, it’s with a mix of grudging respect and latent envy that today, on Sonic Breakfast, I bring you the music of Sam GO. Young, vibrant and possessed with the capacity to head down to Peru for a year once his high school no longer needed him, Sam has now released Gringo, essentially a concept album about his trip. And what a trip it appears to be. This is a tale of narcissistic adventure, of nearly fucking your head up in pursuit of enlightenment and living to tell the story. 

Sam’s detailed bio is one of the most entertaining I’ve read in a long while. I’ll let him pick up his story.. 

“With high school out of the way, I fled to South America for a six month stint as an ESL teacher in Lima, Peru, which would change my entire outlook on the world, right?

Wrong, because of course teaching sucked; it required passion as well as knowledge, passion that just couldn’t compete with my indulgent, probably-faux brooding. On my final day as a teacher, I performed what I felt would resemble a heartfelt goodbye to a small group of students whose names totally escaped me (I’m an asshole who didn’t even know the names of the kids who had allegedly changed my life).  So, disillusioned with the whole humanitarian thing, I left my fraudulent husk of a teaching career to drink potent hallucinogenic tea with a shaman.

I guzzled, puked, and shat ayahuasca on loop for about month, apparently gaining some profound personal insight and taming the relentlessly self-effacing narcissism that had wreaked such psychic havoc in those distant, feeble-minded pre-ayahuasca days. While I did relish in that glowing post-ceremonial condescension that typically accompanies anyone in the beginning stages of a spiritual tradition, I viciously swerved back into my self-deprecating proclivities once I caught myself saying things like , “as a child of the cosmos” and “having risen above the apes.”

I’ve been spending much of this week listening to Gringo. I’ll wager a bet that it didn’t appear in many top 50 albums of the year lists and that’s a travesty. If you’re a fan of Kevin Barnes and Of Montreal then it won’t take you many listens to get where this record is coming from. Others might need to give it a few more chances to grow on them.

It’s literate, indulgent, soulful and impossible to pigeon-hole. It’s poetical pop in which the melodies don’t take obvious routes but end up making entire sense. It plays with my head in the way that the better records from Prince or Beck do. There’s more than enough within Gringo to suggest that Sam GO should indulge himself in more gap years. 

I look forward to the next instalment.

 

 

The Ramisco Maki Maki Rocking Horse – Holy Barnacles

I was delighted to receive an E-mail from The Ramisco Maki Maki Rocking Horse a week or so before Christmas. 

The E-mail began:- 

‘Holler Sean, how be yo’self? 

These here hooves were just over at the Fresh on the Net Listening Post and I noticed you thew my hooves a vote for that there Holy Barnacles ditty o’ mine, mighty kind of you captain, these here hooves sure appreciate the support. Anyways, I thought I might yodel forth and make acquaintance, throw you a copy of the EP and such. ‘

This was no ordinary press release and I immediately warmed to Ramisco, the horse.

It was true that earlier that weekend I’d been enjoying the Fresh On The Net listening post. One of the stand out tracks had been Holy Barnacles, a short and sweet, banjo-fuelled, cowboy country stomp. I was hooked before the drinking/thinking couplet but that cemented my admiration.

I confess I was a tad surprised to discover that the man behind The Ramsico Maki Maki Rocking Horse was not some nutty, grizzled American from Austin, Texas but a Scottish Highlander, Ray McCartney, with his own label, Planet Groucho records. It was on this label that the EP, Possessed by the Gods of Cowbell Oblongata, was released back in November. It’s a fabulously inventive record, deliciously offbeat with quirky twists and casio-punk turns. 

It’s exactly the sort of release that I first set up Sonic Breakfast for. I’m sure regular readers will approve.