Pluto & Charon – Sick As A Dog

There are probably very few bands that are formed in breakfast restaurants. Sonic Breakfast would be keen to hear about any of them. It sort of makes sense to feature those bands given the name of the blog.

In a series of posts that might stretch to one in number, today we put forward a track from the emerging, folksy-Americana outfit, Pluto & Charon. The Los Angeles based act, led by songwriter Matthew Hough, all met out of West Hollywood’s Griddle Cafe, a place where Matthew worked the early shift. From there, he engaged with customers and friends of co-workers to get the band together. What a glorious sound they now make. 

They’ve recently released their debut album, ‘Point Nemo’, a labour of love over the last three years. Matthew says about the release that “For better or worse, I have put most of what my heart has been able to muster for the last 3 years into “Point Nemo!” I want people to be reminded that life is abundant and inherently meaningful, and that the ride is much more enjoyable if we’re able to love each other just a little bit more than we do.”

You can’t say fairer than that. It’s that positive spirit and faultless work-ethic that comes to the fore when talking with the band. I ask them how things had been going since launching the album in lockdown. “Overall it’s just been a blast though to start sharing these tunes that have been cooking for the better part of 3 years! Now with everything still locked down pretty tight, it seems like a pretty good time to keep recording and putting out more work!“, they offer back.

The video for Sick As A Dog, the recent single release, finds Pluto & Charon in their own homemade Western movie. It’s an entertaining piece of film like something you might recall from an episode of The Monkees. From what I can tell it has little to do with the lyric of the song though that’s hardly an issue when such fun was clearly had in the making. 

“Sick As a Dog was written at the state of infatuation, where it gets confused with love. Most of the song was written before even going out on a first date with this particular person, and the song was finished after that first date. A few months down the line things had come to an end, “, says Matthew about the song.

There’s probably a whole separate blogpost that could stir about the song’s meaning but that’s not for today – today is all about bands formed in breakfast restaurants. 

Iraini Mancini – Shotgun

I had a dream. We were younger and playful and driving across France. We’d just stolen some broccoli from the village stores simply because we could. We had the cents to pay for our veg but the dithering fool behind the counter tested our patience to the limit. And so we drove off in our 2CV, with not a care in the world. 

The car radio startled into a crackle and a song came out. It was Iraini Mancini’s Shotgun. I queried in my head how this could be – the song only came out two months ago and yet this dreamscape was from years ago, nay decades. I still had a full head of hair and you were full of smiles. 

I didn’t let the incongruity have time to settle. We were happier than you could imagine now, giggling more than we ever thought possible. We were young, crazy and in love and being accompanied by the most appropriate soundtrack. This was bliss.

And then I woke. 

 

Iraina Mancini is the epitome of cool; of that there can be no doubt.  An expert in Northern Soul, Funk, Vintage R&B, Ska and Garage Rock, she’s exactly the sort of person you’d want at your parties. She might spin some records whilst there or introduce you to her well-connected friends. She’d undoubtedly provide the street cred.

She’s always made music but she’s now turned her attention to her solo career. And on the evidence of Shotgun this is the stuff that Sonic Breakfast’s dreams are made of (see what I did there?). This is deliciously laced 60s French Pop; Serge Gainsbourg influenced-music for the 2020s.

It’s carefree and seductive; a chance for all of us to jump into our own road movie and to pay no regard to the consequence. We’re on the run and leaving it all behind.

Shotgun is a shot of fun. We need this now more than ever. 

 

https://youtu.be/33J08L8T4SE

Lisa Akuah – Dancing Trees

The wind rustles through the palm fronds. It’s been stormy for 24 hours now. When you’re as far out in the country as I am, you don’t get woken by the comfortable sound of traffic buzz or urban spaces coming to life; here, you hear the swirling wind making sounds like a trombone player warming up at the orchestra or a ghost that’s about to haunt. I’m used to it now but for the novice I’m sure it’s eerie. 

Such days and nights are fortunately few and far between. I’m reliably informed that by Friday the weather will again be unseasonably balmy. This makes me glad. I can relax if I look forward.

 

For Lisa Akuah, the experience of ‘Dancing Trees’ is an altogether more positive one. But she has picked her moment well. She spreads a blanket underneath the tree in her local Berlin park one late summer afternoon, lies down and allows her mind to wander. In the shade but still feeling the warmth of the sun, she watches the intricate patterns made between leaf, bough and branch. From that, she finds herself going into a daze, hypnotised by the colours and shapes and perfectly content with her lot.

The psychedelic, folk track that is ‘Dancing Trees’ is born. It’s a gentle tune that slowly works its way into your core. If it doesn’t hook you immediately, give it another spin to let it work its magic. I’m sure it will given time.

I’m sure we can all relate. And for many of us, the thought of lying on a warm rug right now looking up at swaying leaves must feel like pure escapism. The chance of being able to lose yourself in the moment and to concentrate on the small things of nature must seem quite remote as our worlds progress at insane speed. 

Escapism, nostalgia and an appreciation of the minutiae – three solid Sonic Breakfast ‘themes’ for a Wednesday morn. 

O’SULLIVAN – Little Bird

Winter is well and truly here in this part of Spain. This last week and a half has really seen the chills descend. Only a brave explorer now uses the exposed terrace for breakfast or for an evening cocktail. I layer up and hide under blankets on the sofa in attempts to warm my bones.

Pick your moments well though and you can still squint towards the descending afternoon sun whilst lounging on the terrace. There’s still joy to be had. The feral peacocks still loom large (here) but I’m learning to tolerate them. Besides, this post is about an altogether smaller bird – a little bird.

There are a ton of wagtails in this part of Spain at the moment. This might be the norm but I’ve never taken the time to notice them before. They’re a delight – tiny things and mostly white with patches of grey. Gracefully, they totter around the gravelled garden on the lookout for food and nesting spots. And as they take gentle and small steps, their held-high elegant tails wag from side to side. They’re a ballet dancer of a bird, exquisite, dainty and full of class. 2020 is a year in which we’ve learnt to observe the small things again – the delight I get from watching a wagtail’s path is evidence of that.

O’SULLIVAN’S song, Little Bird, isn’t about wagtail’s or indeed about anything in your aviary. But it is an indie-pop belter for the summer that never was. And, let’s face it, it’s all about a bit of escapism here at Sonic Breakfast. With hazy, warm vibes, we can all look back (or forward) to more sun-drenched days with this gem of a tune.

O’SULLIVAN is an Irishman now living in Hungary. He says that this tune is all about revisiting old relationships and the freedom and happiness that another person can bring into your life, a bittersweet love song to the woman he loves. 

And that’s fair enough – but try stopping me – I’m still going to be singing this sweet little ditty when the wagtail’s appear in the garden. 

Phoebe Coco – White Horse

My Grandad, George, had a lifelong love of horses. Progressing from stable lad to the head of those stables, he cared diligently for all of the horses that came under his watch. I often wish that I had the same skills and attributes  – and yet the sad truth is that I’ve never once ridden a horse. As the years advance, I guess that this is something I might never do. 

Back at the start of the year, I joined an extras agency. I thought it would be something interesting to do and I was put forward for a couple of ‘roles’ before Covid and lockdown blew things off course. One of the roles that I could have landed was as a stablehand. I guess my facial hair and ruddy complexion was what the production was looking for; they checked that I wouldn’t mind combing the horse after being trained. “Of course not”, I thought. “I’ll channel the influence of Grandad George and mask the fact that I’m a novice and a bit fearful of equine things.”

Phoebe Coco clearly doesn’t share such fear; you get a sense that horses are pretty important in her life. She’s called her debut album ‘My White Horse & I’ and recently released a single ‘White Horse’ from that album. It’s a folk-pop gem and a love song to her horse, Blue, a giant Irish cob that she’s now been riding for two years around the streets and paths of North London. Phoebe’s dreamy vocal canters along before being complemented by ethereal harmonies from her twin sisters, Grace and Dorothy. A wonderful family affair, White Horse trots along with a carefree, magical energy.

I ask Phoebe how Covid has impacted upon the album release and she acknowledges that it has made things a bit staggered. ” It felt like the right time still to put it out there, and I’ll probably do a launch gig in Jan .. although I am doing some things before that aka a live stream from the stables “‘, she offers by way of enticement.

Phoebe’s a free spirit. She thinks nothing of riding horses in the wild forests of Provence or singing into sleepless sunrises on London’s streets after nights dancing, She’s offered up a well-turned out gem here and encouraged me to add another activity to my bucket list. 

All cool for a Monday.

Loving Backwards – Gorgeous Pulse

I know that many of my dearest friends have found 2020 a struggle. They tell me that their anxiety is going through the roof and that their panic attacks have become more sustained and frequent. Some won’t see 2021 because they’ve made a choice that this is all too much. It’s not been easy. 

When little makes sense, I often find that a healthy tablet of odd psychedelia clears the mind. And when it doesn’t entirely sort you out, it helps to rewire your brain so that little seems problematic any more. 

Take this track ‘Gorgeous Pulse’ by Loving Backwards. It manages to avoid any elongated pomposity that could be associated with the genre clocking in at a mere three and a half minutes. It doesn’t half pack a punch in that time. 

Changing time signature as often as a Tory Government backtracks (a lot), this wizard piece is the first single from a Tel Aviv consortium led by guitarist and vocalist, Or Izekson. When asked about the title, Or said, “the theme behind the phrase “Gorgeous Pulse” came to my mind while struggling with anxiety outbreaks during a personal crisis, which caused my heart to beat very strong and rapid. Writing this song was a way to address this, as in saying: “it’s OK, dear pulse, you’re absolutely gorgeous, and I have no quarrel with you”.”

‘It’s ok dear pulse, you’re absolutely gorgeous and I have no quarrel with you’ – let the power of that sink in for a second. We all should be telling ourselves how true that is every morning when we wake. It’s a beautiful statement and a helpful thought for these times.

Gorgeous Pulse comes with a magical video as well. An elderly wizard goes on a quest to regain his powers and is helped to do so by a young girl. It’s an epic journey in a short(ish) song but also an opportunity for Or to burn an old, broken guitar that he had at his disposal. 

You are all absolutely gorgeous. Make time for treats this weekend.

East Eden – west nod

Back when Ollie, my son, was a young teenager, we both used to amuse ourselves with the thought of epic road-trips. Travelling across the States would be our ultimate goal taking in the sights and sounds as we made use of motels and canvas to sate our wanderlust. Conversation has gone a bit quiet on this front in recent years though it remains a dream of mine. I guess life just gets in the way. 

So, it’s with the slightest of envy and the utmost of admiration that I watch the journey being made by East Eden as they leave their base in New York to travel west. They pack a portable music studio to write and record as they go and, on the evidence of this single release, west nod, have found much to inspire. 

“Our single ‘west nod’, describes our wanderlust“, say Yori and Carolina, the couple that make up East Eden. “Our goal was to record all over the country with our ‘pop up’ studio, drawing inspiration from our surroundings and experiences. Yori recorded the bass and horns in New York. Carolina laid down the vocals and drums in Virginia. Yori’s verse took form in Tennessee. We pieced it all together in Utah. About a week later we shot the music video in Joshua Tree and L.A.”

East Eden have produced a track that positively bounces with a good-time feel. This is sunshine funk with spirit; the sense of fun that both are having is contagious as they realise their dreams en route. The West Coast remains the destination but much fun is going to be had on the way.

It’s a Friday and the weekend has nearly begun. Sonic Breakfast obliges with some music guaranteed to make your smile broad and your cava quaffable.

 

Abby K – All Good

I don’t talk much about my day job within this blog. It’s pretty much been an unwritten rule since beginning Sonic Breakfast that I would rope off some aspects of my life and rarely discuss them. I’m not sure why it’s developed that way.

For those that don’t know, I work for a charity that distributes funds to youth homelessness projects. I work as part of a team that’s helping to create new homes for young people who don’t have that security. Get beyond the day to day routine, rigmarole and frustrations that are part of anybody’s working life and it’s a pretty rewarding place to be.

But, I still walk past people sleeping rough (or did before 2020) and barely bat an eye. If challenged my well-rehearsed lines still stand up to my own scrutiny. “It’s better to give my money elsewhere“, I say before spending it that evening in the pub. “You’re not really getting to the root cause of the problem“, I say before spending the day talking with friends about the latest exit on I’m A Celebrity. “I need the food myself“, I say before putting nothing in the food-bank collections and going home to write a blogpost about my expanding waistline.

Despite thinking that I care about others and actively do good when I really think about it what do I really do? My emotions are hardened, my tears trained not to fall and my life, as a result, is all good.

This is the situation that Abby K describes in her latest song and video, All Good. Released in the build up to the US election, it served as a call for Americans to vote for change. Asked specifically about this track, Abby says, “the idea that we are privileged and turn away from the ugly truths of our world is a powerful notion. Something’s got to change or something’s going to give! When tears refuse to stream the way they should, I guess that means, life’s all good? It’s time to MAKE things all good.

A gentle country-folk song for a Thursday, Abby’s delivery has none of the rage that you might traditionally expect from a protest song. Like a calm and collected schoolteacher taking an assembly, the singer-songwriter carouses and encourages us with her unique voice into looking at the world differently. 

The cynic in me finds this so easy to dismiss as idealistic, hippie twaddle. Maybe, thinking about why I have that response and taking a good look at what I’ll be doing to make things better today is the more appropriate way forward.

VÍB – AMBER

 As relationships go, my time with AMBER could hardly have been considered a rip-roaring success. Over before it really began, this was one of those long-distance affairs that promised much but delivered little. We didn’t agree on much politically but tried hard to make it work as we glossed over our obvious differences. Things petered out within the space of a few sad months and we moved on to better things before the Summer was done. 
It might then be odd and a bit niche if I was now, after all of these years, writing a blog post about that relationship. But, as VíB are quick to point out in the press release to their song ‘AMBER’,  “Often times when people hear “AMBER” they think it’s about a women, but AMBER is a metaphor for whatever your vice is.”
 
They add, “Sometimes too much of a food thing isn’t good anymore. Just because it’s good to you doesn’t mean it’s good for you. That is AMBER.”
 
Lockdown has been good in so many ways but my waistline has noticeably suffered. Never blessed with the thinnest of frames, it turns out that the combination of bread, chocolate, crisps, cheese and wine is not a sensible one if I want to avoid weight gain. Tie that in with the more sedentary lifestyle that working from home brings and the fact that the fridge is only ever a short walk away and trouble is brewing. 
 
VÍB’s AMBER is a fantastic, soulful song of despair and temptation. You feel the guilt as the singer gives ways to his addiction and orders another portion, gram, dose, glass or batch. You can’t help but relate as you eat your cheese and biscuits for supper and drink one more glass of wine before bed. You catch a glimpse of your side profile in the shadows and reflections as you waddle off for a night’s sleep and resolve that tomorrow is the day when your new life begins, a plan easily forgotten when the new day dawns. 
 
VÍB are planning for new releases in 2021 – and it turns out that so am I. 
 
 
 

 

 

Tazmin – Nine More Lives

It would be very easy to be sniffy about Tazmin. Looking towards her pure pop pedestal, first impressions might suggest that there’s little more here than an X factor wannabee. One could quite easily dismiss her achievements to date as a typical career path of those who are building up to a future of reality TV shows followed by pantomime in Peterborough.

But to allow any sort of musical snobbimess to guide your judgment here will be missing the point. So, she’s been a child-star in China, turned out for Disney and won talent competitions that only really exist to make money for their organisers. From the outside looking in, her route through all of this might not be as tragic as some and her back-story less compelling.

Let’s not beat around the bush. Tazmin has talent and a work-ethic that’ll put many to shame. Take this tune of hers, Nine More Lives, a song about forgiveness and getting a second chance. Unlike many of your indie stars with a team of songwriters behind them, Tazmin wrote and semi self-produced this 80’s-influenced banger all on her own. And to do so, she openly notes that she drew influence from the songwriting guile of Nile Rodgers, studying the structures that he employs with such dynamic effect. She might not spell her name as TZMN but Tazmin has a broader range of skills to draw upon. 

Even if the pop-funk singalong focus of Nine More Lives doesn’t entirely float your boat you have to admit that the video, shot last year in Wadi Rum & Petra, Jordan, is a thing to lift you from the drudgery of your own miserable Winter experience. It’s cool to see sunshine and sights when your own horizons are limited. 

Tazmin doesn’t need to be using one of those nine lives to draw me in. But drop your own misconceptions,, give tunes (and artists) such as this a second chance and you might get a welcome surprise.