Slut Magic – Trauma Queen

My days of computer gaming are long gone. My best friend here in Spain, James, spends a fair bit of his lockdown time existing in alternative worlds as he attempts to complete his latest adventure. Sometimes, he’ll tell me about the mission he’s on and, whilst I try not to be rude, I can feel my eyes glaze over and my brain go to mush as I find out about the most recent ‘boss’ encounter. Fortunately, James has lots of other interests and we’re now more likely to chat about those.

But I did play computer games in younger days. It’s a mark of how much things have progressed that my first console (a cheap version of an Atari) basically allowed me to play what has become a retro bat and ball classic. In later years, I progressed to a ZX Spectrum and then when Ollie, my son, was growing up, I dabbled a bit in Wii’s and early PlayStation’s in an attempt to seem like a cool Dad. I failed badly.

I do however know what a sidescrolling game is. And so when Slut Magic’s press release for ‘Trauma Queen’ popped into my mail box with talk of their love of ‘hitting “Continue” even when it’s time to sleep’, I wasn’t completely disconnected. Besides, who could avoid being enticed by the character of the Trauma Queen—”the summonable patron saint of vengeance against rapists, abusers, and cowards of all kinds” – as they get invoked to “beat the boss and move on to the next level. Forever.


Trauma Queen is the opening track and title of Slut Magic’s album that was released towards the end of 2020. It’s worth giving the Brooklyn based band a full listen should you get the chance; their political punk credentials come to the fore in a glorious scuzzy swathe of radical, off-kilter, anger (and humour).But, definitely do make time for Trauma Queen this morning. It has a tone of dark cabaret, like something that Amanda Palmer would be involved in. 

I ask Slut Magic what plans they have for 2021 and get the best of responses back in return. “Sooooooo, we’re gonna be careful with this question.”, they say. “On November 6, 2019, Patch Philly asked us what our plans were for 2020. We literally said, “We think we’re one of the four bands of the apocalypse. So maybe the apocalypse is in 2020?”  With that in mind: Our plans for 2021 are to be the finale music of capitalism, and the prelude to a just, anti-racist, eco-centric social order where the constructs of gender, the existence of prisons, and the need for nuclear weapons are as passé as Smash Mouth. Also we’re gonna do some 90s covers. We have a sludgy cover of Spice Girls’ “Say You’ll Be There” coming on Valentine’s weekend, perfect for brooding with your cat, or worshipping your vibrator.

I’ve had a sneak-preview listen to that cover version and I’m happy to confirm that it works (when perhaps it shouldn’t). 

And I’ll continue to listen whilst elsewhere around the World the computer games keep on scrolling. 


Liesl – Driveway Bruises

I tell people who feign interest that Sonic Breakfast is all about the discovery of new music. I suppose that this is in part true. A more complete answer though would be that Sonic Breakfast highlights new music to unlock fading memories. “There are places I remember“, as Lennon and The Beatles very neatly once put it.

When I was eight years old, my family moved from Prestwood in Buckinghamshire to Dorchester in Dorset. For most eight year olds, I’m sure such a transition would hardly have registered on the anxiety scale. But, I didn’t find the change very easy at all. I hated my new school and I’m pretty sure that the teachers and other pupils weren’t that keen on my histrionics. I had a very real sense that this was a backward move for me (not that I could do anything about it aged eight). In my head, Prestwood equalled glamour and excitement whereas Dorchester was a dull sludge of a place. I can see now that my assessment of place wasn’t entirely accurate though it didn’t stop the young Sean crying himself to sleep most nights.

I do sometimes wonder if my struggle to now truly settle in one place is in any way informed by that formative experience. In an effort to not experience the desperate sadness I felt back then, I keep moving. And try not to become too connected with a place because it’ll only lead to feelings of ambiguous loss when the inevitable happens. Sonic Breakfast is simply a tool I use to moderate over the memories.

It seems that Liesl’s on the same page as I am with her evocative track ‘Driveway Bruises’. Liesl’s move was much grander than mine; a cross-continent trek as a teenager from a small South African town to the buzzing hive of activity that is Berlin. This tune, and the soon-to be released EP ‘Unfamiliar’, is largely inspired by the feelings of loss, estrangement and a search for belonging that the move provoked.

Berlin is definitely a world away from where I grew up in South Africa – which was a much smaller town with different people, culture and beliefs,”, says Liesl when I ask her about the differences. “I love the open-mindedness, independence and creative freedom I have here in Berlin, but I miss the beautiful South-African nature, the familiarity, and the feeling of being grounded somewhere. I’ve been thinking a lot about the term “ambiguous loss”, which is essentially what the song talks about. Although the physical place still exists, the idea of it being a home only exists in my memory.”

There’s a cracking video that goes hand in hand with ‘Driveway Bruises’. Liesl made it herself with old film footage found in the family archives. By her own acknowledgment this is an effort to ‘visually represent the idea of memories receding into the past.’ The cover artwork (added above), also self-produced, draws focus  on ‘something beautiful that is desiccating, decaying, causing it to become confusing and unfamiliar.’

The music and video chime and tug at my core. I can’t entirely put my finger on how something quite uncluttered can draw upon such emotion. I feel overwhelmed but also acknowledge a sense of release when listening to the simple piano and vocal effects within. See if it does the same for you? 



And then, as an added Saturday bonus, you can also listen to the second single from the EP, Fish Net, that was released just yesterday. It’s another cracker from a deep-thinking new talent. 


Kings & Bears – When The Day

In a little over a week’s time, all being well with flight schedules and PCR rest results, I’ll be back in the UK. Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will know that I’m going to miss Spain greatly. The opportunity I’ve had since July to be over here whilst ‘working from home’ has clearly been a ‘once in a lifetime’ thing; a plus-point and unexpected consequence of the global pandemic.

I’ll be heading back to Crowland, Lincolnshire. I know that I’m resilient and that I’ll adjust to the cold, darker days and shorter supply of space. It’ll be reassuring to know that I’ll be on the same island as many more friends and family members (not that I’ll be able to see them). And the worst extremes of a British Autumn and Winter will hopefully have been missed. Spring and all of its glory is on the way, right? 

Lincolnshire can’t exactly be described as a hotbed of Rock ‘n’ Roll development. Try to name a famous musician who was born or grew up in the County and you might struggle unless you’re the very switched-on sort at pub quizzes. In Spalding, they still remember the time that Jimi Hendrix played a festival in the town for no other reason (apparently) than this (from over 50 years ago) was also the last gig there of any note. 


But maybe today’s featured Sonic Breakfast act are en route to beginning to put Lincolnshire on the music map? Kings & Bears are from a place somewhere in the County though they cunningly avoid telling me precisely where when I briefly chat with James, lead singer from the band, in advance of writing this piece. You can tell from the accompanying video to their energetic and wholly likeable track, When The Day, that this is a trio who knows how to party hard. It’s a song inspired by hazy nights and blurry mornings and there’s no surprise to see the three members of the band crumpled and comatose at the end of their excess – with a twist.

It felt as though an out-and-out party vid just isn’t us,“, says James. “So we wanted to reflect this idea but imbue it with our own personality.

‘When The Day’ is a three minute dose of joyful, classic Rock. The riffs and the vocal inflections will be familiar but this is well performed and will likely have you smiling as you sing along with the chorus. It’s a job well done for Kings & Bears who formed on the dawn of James’ 30th birthday after he freaked out about reaching such a grand age. 

“For me it was about spreading a message of joy like so many of the artists that had influenced me,”, he offers.

Perhaps that return from Spain won’t be so traumatic after all…


Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt – Ghost Writer

I’ve been challenging myself to publish a new blog post every day. There’s a lot of good new music about and I’m keen to give it a platform. But, it’s also been good for me to get into a routine of writing daily. Having some sort of structure to focus upon clearly helps my sanity in these insane times.

Those days when I would be staring at a blank page seem increasingly distant. I’m now in the flow and with that comes a confidence of putting any order of words down onto paper with the knowledge that they will ultimately make sense to some. That’s not to say that I’ve been any less stringent about the quality I want to achieve in the words I publish; more that by practice, this routine is getting easier. 

Just as I wouldn’t expect to be able to run a half marathon with no training, neither should I expect the words to flow if I don’t limber up first.

The character in ‘Ghost Writer’, the opening track on Aaron Nathans and Michael G. Ronstadt’s 2020 album, Shadow Of The Cyclone, is experiencing a pretty severe case of writers block. They sit at the vintage typewriter hoping that the words will come but the brain is largely drawing blanks. And the ghost writer’s lot is compounded by the fact that they know that, when the words do come, none of them will be credited directly to them. Their existence is anonymous, so much so that they’re ignored by locals as they grumpily take a stroll down the high street. This is not a happy character sketch.

The sad lyrical tone is supplemented by Nathans and Ronstadt’s delivery. Michael, nephew of Linda, plays a haunting cello line whilst Aaron’s baritone voice and guitar pluck add to the overall eeriness. This is Americana at its best; maudlin and considered, desolate and with an absence of hope. You can’t help but feel for the ghost writer by the time the song draws to a close. 

Maybe he should start to write a daily music blog? That might help to lift his spirits. I promise happier pop tomorrow. 


Jacob The Horse – Sunshine

After a gloomy week or two weather-wise in this part of Spain, things seem to be turning a corner. There might well be another cold snap before I leave but I’m happy to report that, for now at least, daily temperature highs are peaking in the 20’s (centigrade) and the nights are no longer in low single figures. Without the benefit of central heating that was really very cold indeed. 

The sunshine makes me happy. I could do without the stifling, over-bearing heat of the intense Summer months but for the most part you can get a decent dose of vitamin D here without feeling that sticky oppression. Yesterday, I deliberately took a 45 minute lunch break from the day job to sit out on the terrace and chill. I started to read a book, something I’ve not done for a long time. With a pleasant warm heat beating on my brow and a book to transport me to another time I couldn’t have been happier.

Some might think at first glance that Jacob The Horse are also commenting upon happy times in their first release for nearly four years, ‘Sunshine’. It’s certainly a spirited and bouncy number, an energetic punk-pop piece with an accompanying video that’ll probably make you smile. The cheesy, charm of the choreographed dance routines mostly offer good, frantic fun in these dark days.

But scratch beneath the surface and you’ll soon see that ‘Sunshine’ is not the smiley song that it first appears to be. “‘Sunshine’ is the happiest song you’ll ever hear about having a depressive episode.“, offers Aviv from Jacob The Horse by way of explanation. “The depressed mind’s message in this song is strangely fitting for today’s locked down culture: ‘I’m writing down my Netflix info, won’t you come on home, avoid the sunshine.’

‘Sunshine’ is the first single to be taken from Jacob The Horse’s forthcoming album, College Party Mixtape, Vol 1. Out in March, I’ve had a sneak-preview listen and the LA based band have certainly put something together that’ll be well worth looking out for. Today, though, is all about the sunshine.

I’m sure that we all have friends and family members who mask their underlying sadness by trying to be the life and soul of the party. We all have colleagues who live their lives at manic speed because to slow down would give them time to think about the things they don’t want to. If there’s any ‘message’ to be taken from today’s post (and there doesn’t have to be) perhaps it’s that we should take some time with our friends to see how solid their sunny state is. And that will be time well spent. 


VISSIA – About Moving On

Sonic Breakfast does like to wallow in the gloom of a maudlin break-up tune from time to time. The very best of the genre allow us opportunity to think back on past relationships that have left us broken-hearted – and to consider how far we’ve come from the teary mess that we were in the immediate aftermath of the relationship ending. Of course, it’s never good practice to listen to break-up songs when you’re still an emotional wreck. That’ll (not to put to fine a point on it) simply end in tears. 

I can still remember the very first time that I heard Sinead O’ Connor’s version of Nothing Compares 2U. Alongside the simplistic, grief-laden, real-time video of Sinead’s headshot, it’s a break-up tune that cannot fail to connect. Even the coldest of hearts must be able to feel the rawness of Sinead’s pain. VISSIA’s ‘About Moving On’ comes from similar stock. 


About Moving On’ started out with this visual I had playing in my mind in slow motion,“, reveals the emerging Canadian artist. “You’re at your favourite bar or pub minding your own business over a pint with friends, and the person who completely shattered your heart walks in. You can hardly breathe, hardly move, and the racing in your chest wants to escape from your mouth, but gets stuck in your throat. You desperately wish you were made of sugar so you could wander out into the rain and melt away.”

I’m sure that we’ve all been in that bar or pub that VISSIA has in her visual. Perhaps we’ve avoided the bar for a few years because our last experience of it was so very painful. But, in reality, avoiding the bar is probably just stunting our natural healing process. “Why would you ever expect a big love to die a small death?”, concludes VISSIA in a never-a-truer-phrase-spoken moment. 

VISSIA is releasing a new song this coming Friday. I did wonder about delaying this post and then doubling up to talk about ‘On My Mind’ as well. “It’s very much on the other spectrum of what VISSIA offers musically“, said her record company when I enquired about the possibility. 

As great as ‘On My Mind’ will be, I choose to give ‘About Moving On’, an intimate and tender break-up song, its very own billing. 

Flope – Angina Baba Angina Mama

“I think it’s amazing that what would otherwise be forgotten music can be dusted down and given a new lease of life to a new audience in a new century. Some of the singing and musicianship from back then is just top notch.”

So says Flope, the English artist behind an incredibly interesting project that has really got Sonic Breakfast’s juices flowing. I’ll let them continue.

“The project started with the purchase of more than 100 old 78 rpm records from Africa. The records used were recorded mainly in Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) in the early 1950s. The records were sent to a specialist music engineer in the United States, who converted all files to 24-bit .wav format for us. We are in the process of examining them and looking for tracks to feature on our forthcoming album. We’ve recorded four tracks so far and three of them are on Spotify as a 3-track single.”

Those three tracks really are something special. Take the track ‘Angina Baba Angina Mama’ that I’ve chosen to feature here. It bounces along with grit and determination; the vintage guitar and vocals from Norman Muhlwa shining brightly amidst Flope’s digital additions. The sum is perhaps akin to what Paul Simon was trying to achieve with Graceland. Or, indeed, what Public Service Broadcasting have looked to do by bringing old public service announcements back to life. 

There’s something sad (though undeniably inevitable) about the idea that every day a piece of all of our histories is forever lost. Only a minimal amount of the cultural artefacts from all of our pasts can possibly survive the test of time; and sometimes it’s the least appealing works of art that’ll get heralded in galleries because they were able to secure a form of patronage when they were created.

Thank goodness for people like Flope who are on a mission to rescue records from the region that was Northern Rhodesia / Nyasaland. I’ll be following the development of this work with interest. 



Georgie Weston – Never Be That Age Again

I barely remember my teenage years. I look back at crumpled photos of myself and don’t really recognise the person looking out at me. But I do recall that I was an intense sort and hopelessly romantic. I thought that every relationship I entered into would be my last. I’d make mixtapes of my favourite songs to send to future (I hoped) lovers. And I had an obsession over listening to new music, something that was much harder to do in the 1980’s than it is now. Some things don’t change.

I’d see a girl waiting by a bus-stop and before even knowing her name, I’d declare that I was in love. Naive and foolish, I’d predict an uncluttered future for us before we’d even spoken. The memory appears in my mind now as sepia-tinged. I’ll never be that age again. 


Georgie Weston, a man much, much younger than I, has written a song that stirs up all of those teenage emotions again. In his version of ‘Never Be That Age Again’, Georgie dives headfirst into a ‘melancholic journey about a romance with no destination’. The parting couple in this song are embarking on their own lives with a tearful ‘if only, what if’ reflection. The fact that Georgie knows that he’ll never be that age again despite his tender years bodes well for his own future. It took me decades to work out.

There’s a wonderful retro feel to this song. Georgie has adapted his name in homage to his Great Grandfather, who was an accomplished classical jazz pianist from London back in the 30’s. He cites the influence of Bacharach, Gershwin, vintage McCartney and Gilbert O’Sullivan (who frequently made the cut in those mixtapes of mine) in his press release with good reason. But to suggest that this is rooted firmly in the past would be ignoring the dreamy haze that’s been created in the production, ‘the spacey sonic landscape that forecasts the shape of indie to come’, as Georgie puts it.

The video adds to that combined and conflicting sense of loss and opportunity. For a bit of light relief (it made me smile anyway), look out for the bit in which Georgie is standing over the canal holding his vintage keyboard awkwardly in his arms. It’s a ‘You’ve Been Framed’ moment waiting to happen, right? Perhaps that’s just the way why mind works. 

Who needs Steve Wright on a Sunday morning when you have Sonic Breakfast? 

The Lunar Keys – If It Was

I don’t want to get all revolutionary on a Saturday morning. And I certainly don’t want to get myself confused with the small movement of anti-vaccine and anti-mask wearers who sometimes have been gathering together to march in the name of their cause. But it was always a surprise to me that almost a decade of austerity (as a Government policy) didn’t lead to more protest on the streets than it did. I realise that there were gatherings of smaller scale but in impact terms, they were nothing like those marches in London back in the day to protest against the validity of the Gulf War.

In the last years, popular protest seemed to take a step forward. Extinction Rebellion really seemed able to tap into the growing desire for environmental change with their deliberately disrupting activities. And the response to the horrific murder of George Floyd was encouraging. People across the UK making a stand alongside their US friends to say that Black Lives really do matter – and in doing so highlighting some of the hypocritical practices and statements we still have operating in the UK. In the midst of the first lockdown, things got quite heated for a while.

I live in hope that, once this Covid thing is all done, the use of protest to get voices heard (preferably the ones I agree with of course) is something that becomes more the norm than the exception. And I suspect that the four members of The Lunar Keys, ‘anxious types from the suburbs of London, with too many tunes and nervous energy trapped in their Psyches not to be in this band‘, would all broadly agree with me.

Their recent release, If It Was, is a song about protest and possibilities. Hidden within a neat, well delivered Indie-Rock tune, we get a call-to-arms simple chorus asking the listener the question “If It was just a choice you could make, Would you change the world today, Would you sign it with your name?

I ask The Lunar Keys what one thing they would change about the world today. “We would make all world Governments and Corporations accountable to Amnesty International, the WHO and the UN“, they say before adding, “and if we were allowed one more (hypothetically) a ban on any entity of Super Rich… the Risk of Human Rights and the Planet.

Worthy causes but if the revolutionary zeal and ardour within is a little bit strident for you today, The Lunar Keys do add “On the lighter side -We would ban blue smarties.

Now there is a cause that we could all protest against, right? 


Joulie Fox – Don’t Be Shy

Back in the mists of time and before this website was even a twinkle in the eye, I used to compère at the glorious and much-missed Summer Sundae festival in Leicester. Anyone who saw my contributions on the Rising Stage was left scratching their heads as to how I’d secured such a privileged position; indeed, I would often pinch myself that I was going on before and after some great, up and coming acts to sing their praises and to try to get the crowd a little more frenzied.

One of my favourite parts of the compère role was meeting the acts before introducing them, finding out what they wanted me to say and then forgetting to say it. Looking at the 2009 edition line-up, you find yourself wondering how a universe could have existed in which The Zutons were billed higher than Bon Iver. I’m reminded that this was the year that I embarrassed myself in front of a very young First Aid Kit and had a lovely, spirited conversation with the buzzing and effervescent, Ou est Le Swimming Pool. (I still feel very sad when I think about what happened in that band just a year later.). 

This was also the year that I introduced James Yuill to the Leicester crowds. Memory is a strange thing but I recall a gentle, unassuming and thoroughly decent man who arrived with a minimal, backstage entourage and quietly charmed sans ego. I remember how much I enjoyed his laidback but layered Folktronica set and recall effusively telling him so much to his general embarrassment. 

It’s lovely to see that James is still involved in music. I can’t say that I’ve diligently followed his career but when I saw that the rising artist, Joulie Fox, had enlisted his production talents on her ‘Don’t Be Shy’ single, I rather suspected I’d like the output. And I wasn’t wrong. 

This is a quirky pop song, excellently executed that builds perfectly towards a nonchalantly-dispatched, crisp chorus. It packs much into a little less than three minutes. You suspect that with Joulie on songwriting duties and James on production, there’s a team emerging here where the sky could be the limit.

I ask Joulie about her plans for 2021. “Yes actually big plans for 2021!“, she says. “My first EP, we started working on it with James Yuill, the same producer who helped me with Don’t Be Shy. In the meantime there will be one more single out we did not approved for my EP but I love it so much that I don’t want to waste it. My plan is to finish this EP before summertime, and go wild in Autumn with live concerts. Hopefully this is the last lockdown for us and we will be able to live freely from March.

Let’s hope that Joulie’s optimistic outlook comes true. For now, have a fine Friday and don’t be shy.