Kritters – Maybe you’re right

There are some days when I review the material of an act that I’m keen to feature on Sonic Breakfast and I’m struck by the sparseness; I’m stuck by their minimalism. These are acts that use one word answers in their press releases when truly more will do. They have no stories with which to support their music and convey a nonchalant disinterest about anything they have created. Perhaps the downplay is a deliberate ploy but it doesn’t half make it a challenge to write a blogpost about them.

Kritters are not one of those acts.

In fact, in the space of a couple of months, Kirini and Rob, the ‘blisteringly fast’ duo who form Kritters have produced so much that the challenge is knowing where to edit. This is a blog post that could run and run and they’ve only just begun. Imagine you’re in your favourite restaurant and the food is as exquisite as ever but you’re getting no break between the courses. With three fab electro pop singles released since February, all with elaborate videos to accompany, this is truly an act with a mission. 

 

There’s a method to the madness.“, say Kritters when we chat by E-mail about the frantic nature. “It’s also driven by the knowledge that we have so many songs on deck: Kirini has essentially written the next four albums (and still going!) so we do what we can to stay on top of it.

You suspect that Kirini and Rob are the sort of people who have hundreds of ideas before breakfast, who are just used to working at pace. I ask them, because I’m genuinely interested how they fit it all in. “In terms of spare time: because we have quite fluid day jobs (we are both private tutors, working mainly online these days) we use every spare second for art.“, they tell me. “And for us art is a very wide net: in addition to making music, Kirini is a visual artist, primarily working in paint but also ceramics and digital collage, and now, too, videos in service of Kritters. This past year she’s also been writing a novel, which will probably take another year to finish. As for Rob, in 2020 he released an album with his last band Stornoway (he was their drummer for 11 years) and so this past year has been all about developing as a producer, something with which he had no experience other than watching the pros in recording studios.

I initially approach the duo, currently based in New York, after hearing the second single taken from their forthcoming EP, It’s A Trap. Maybe you’re right is a grower, a banger and an ode about wanting to escape from self-imposed isolation. It’s easy to see how such a song resonated with me during this lockdown. I ask the pair how the last year has been and repeat their answer in full because it has such power. 

We live in the South Bronx – the Bronx is a borough of NYC which sits just above Manhattan, separated from it by the Bronx river. The South Bronx is a great area, with the energy of city life but at a slightly slower pace to Manhattan; really everyone should be familiar with it because it’s the birthplace of hip hop. It’s also poor and chronically underserved by city and state government, so our neighborhood was particularly hard hit during Covid: at one point this past year we hosted a nurse who had come all the way from Arizona to help out in the local hospital. It’s tough to really put a finger on what, exactly, we will take away from this pandemic year. It’s been desperately sad and completely strange: Trump, needless death, people swept into poverty. But also remarkably positive: the BLM protests, neighbors looking out for each other, and Biden’s election which also saw the election of Ritchie Torres, who is young and progressive, as our district’s representative in Congress. And for us personally the global pause coincided with Kirini beginning to write music, which she’d always planned on doing, and for once there was little else interfering. So, yes: the highs were high and the lows were underground, but we have hope.

 

Since Maybe you’re right, I’ve listened to (and thoroughly enjoyed watching) further releases from Kritters. It’s a Test has a stunning video bringing eight canonical artworks to life, reimagining the women subjects as empowered and not empty vessels for the egos of male artists. The song itself is about trimming our personalities, holding our breath and curtailing our own lives – imposing our own limits to avoid scaring people away. Send me away is a dense and frenzied foray exploring the relationship between anger and insanity; both are blooming fine exponents of the creative and intellectual force that’s fizzing at full flow right now. 

Few would predict against the brightest of future for the irrepressible and effervescent Kritters. Take your seat for a wild ride. 

 

Hagar Levy – I Will Never Know

Hagar Levy sounds like she’s not in a good place in her relationship. In a re-release of ‘I Will Never Know’, taken from her debut album to celebrate its 5 year anniversary, we find her questioning the validity of her relationship. I hope for her sake that she’s still not in that relationship five years on – or at the very least that she now knows who her partner was speaking with on the phone when she arrived home. 

 

It strikes me that Hagar’s intuition is probably spot-on and that her partner is up to no good. If they clam up and don’t want to talk about it then they’ve got skeletons in the cupboard that they shouldn’t be keeping secret in any meaningful relationship. But that’s my naturally suspicious mind at play. It is of course entirely feasible that Hagar’s loving partner was organising a surprise birthday party for her and didn’t want to let on. 

Getting the balance between trusting another and trusting your own instinct is surely at the heart of any successful relationship.

We’re due an update on the relationship status and perhaps Hagar has been honing her neo-soul output this year to provide one. “2021 has been good so far,”, she says when we exchange e-mails. “I’m recording new material and taking my time with new projects. I really hope it will be a good year!!” – there are rumours that this could include putting music to some poems by Emily Dickinson and William Blake. 

I take the chance to ask Hagar, an artist living in Tel-Aviv, about the current Covid situation in Israel. We hear so much about it here in the UK where we’ve taken similar approaches to rapid vaccination. “Yes, Israel is seemingly getting back to some normalcy!“, she says. “Seemingly because the political instability is very grave, but we are out and about, meeting each other, going to restaurants and starting to go to shows…so the vaccines are good i suppose but generally everything is…unclear and unstable :/ But it’s seemingly like that everywhere!!

Hagar is seemingly fond of the word ‘seemingly’. We will never know. All might not be as obvious as it looks if you don’t scratch a little beneath the surface. Taking things at face value might not always be your best option. There are no clear and distinct conclusions to draw from today’s post, save for the song that Sonic Breakfast brings you is a strong one. Of that, there is no question.

Derek Simpson – Kid The Moon & U-Turn

Pete and Joanne are at it again – or rather Pete is at it again. In an exclusive, Sonic Breakfast has intercepted another letter that Pete has crafted and sent to Joanne. The last one was published here. We can’t reveal our sources and we can’t even confirm if Joanne is receiving them. She’s certainly not showing interest in responding. Here Pete tells Joanne about Long Beach bedroom-pop wunderkind, Derek Simpson.

 

Dear Joanne,

I hope you’re well? It’s been so long since we’ve spoken. It would be lovely to hear from you if only to know that you’re safe in these tough times. I heard a song the other day by an artist I’d never heard of before. I thought it might be new to you as well. Kid The Moon by Derek Simpson reminds me so much of our time together. You’ll see why if you give it a play.

I guess it was the long-distance that really did for us, Joanne? Maybe, if we’d have met in the last year when much more meaningful conversation has passed through zoom, we’d have fared better? But, back then, we were early adopters of unpredictable Skype connections. I’d stay awake to have a moonlit conversation with you. Sometimes, in the morning we’d talk just as I was emerging from my dreams and you were entering into them. Oh, that difference in time zone – we’d often joke that we were kidding the moon.

I remember the playful distant moments fondly. You’d lie on your bed and curl up encouraging me to ‘big spoon’ behind you. I had to look up what you meant. And I’d dance weirdly in front of my camera. I’d sway and gyrate, move my arms like Morrissey, all to make you smile. It was great to hear your laugh over the ether. I’d cling to those moments until the next time we’d kid the moon. 

Derek has captured those calls to a tee. It’s almost like he was there though he’s not lost touch with his lovely friend. Oh Joanne, I wish we were still talking. “We still keep in regular contact even with time-zone differences and countries between us,“, says Derek. “I hope this song can stay with them throughout their lifetime as a reminder of just how lovely it is to get to know them.”. I wish that was true for you and I Joanne. 

My enduring love, 

Pete.

PS – Derek has moved on from the hallucinatory, gentle funk of Kid The Moon to release a new track, U-Turn, just a few days ago. It’s another one for us, Joanne. You remember how I’d play some King Tubby whilst we’d hold each other tight at the festival campsite? Or I’d blast out some dub whilst we cuddled up on the sofa? This recalls those moments for me. I hope you enjoy. 

 

Jesse Brady – Transformations

I’m not one for standing still. Every few months, I’ll look back and check that I’m in a slightly different place to the one that I remember. Our time is short and I don’t want to blink and miss it. I don’t want life to pass me by or to wake up in twenty years with regret for what I haven’t achieved. I’ve taken wrong paths along the way and reached a few dead ends that I’ve had to turn around from. I’m glad about those diversions though; it’s not always about taking the ‘right’ road, rather it’s about ensuring that you’re at least taking a road. Curiosity is not going to kill this cat but stagnation will.

Jesse Brady, an emerging singer-songwriter from Nashville, is likely on the same page as me. She’s only young but that hasn’t stopped her from spotting in her debut single, ‘Transformations’, that change is pretty inevitable and is a thing to pin hopes upon. “It’s a song about change, hope, remote-control cars, and taking one step at a time.“, says Jesse in the press release to the tune.

It’s a jolly, upbeat singalong of a pop tune but it has a word of warning hidden within. Life can pass you by if you let it. I ask Jesse what’s been transformative about 2021 so far for her. “It’s been a year of growth and learning to trust my gut.“, she says. “I’ve also learned to reach out to friends more, and my faith in God has grown deeper. I’m releasing my second song on April 23rd, called “Happiness Block”. I’m so grateful for everyone who’s listened to “Transformations” and is supporting me. Despite the separation and isolation that covid has caused, sharing my music has provided a connection to others, and a sense of community and belonging.

Jesse self-produced the fab video to ‘Transformations’ all by herself. The quirky animations provide a fine fit for the song and puts her stake in the ground as a talented all-rounder. It’s not in your face but it does all exude a quiet confidence. “Music is my favorite outlet, the one that makes the most sense, and the one where I truly feel like myself.“, says Jesse.

We’ll be sure to check back in a few months to see how she has developed. 

 

SheBeat – Believe

There are songs that are open to misinterpretation; it’s always a bit gutting when I publish a piece on Sonic Breakfast and the artist comes back to me saying something like ‘that’s an interesting way to the think about the tune’. I worry that it’s a polite way of saying that I’ve completely missed the point. I guess for some songs in which meaning is deliberately hazy and the songwriter is specialising in the opaque this is no bad thing. But I tend to shy away from those pieces. Say what you feel innit. 

There can be little doubt what SheBeat is looking to convey in recent release, Believe. Jodie Schofield, aka SheBeat, moved to Edinburgh from Liverpool in October 2020 and is grabbing the bull by the horns as best she can in her new home city. Believe is a jaunty, less than two minute, fabulous twee-folk shuffle about “taking life by the love handles and making your best (lockdown) life happen.” Jodie credits her Dad as the inspiration behind the tune. “He always tells me to believe in myself and it’s a really empowering simple message I want to share… and remind myself of!“, she says. 

So relevant is Believe for these strange Covid times that you could be forgiven for thinking that Jodie wrote it in recent months. And yet it’s been part of her repertoire since 2014. Jodie tells me that she can’t wait to play it live in Edinburgh, something that she’s not yet been able to do because of lockdown life. But before that, Jodie has some more pressing delights to attend to. 

I’m believing in my brand new niece Lottie who arrived in the world this very week“, says Jodie. “I’m so excited to be an Aunt and can’t wait to meet her once lockdown worries are over!

Sonic Breakfast thinks this is all undeniably positive. Have a truly uplifting Easter Saturday. 

 

Sleep Walking Animals – Aengus’ Fool

Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will recall that I’m not one for ceremony; on Valentine’s Day when other blogs were featuring tracks about glorious love, I was being contrary and ignoring the day’s existence. I’ll do the same this Easter weekend. You’re unlikely to find a song about bunnies, crucifixion or eggs in these parts (though a song featuring all three would surely pique my interest). 

I’m in a conciliatory mood today though. The long weekend and the four days away from my day job are dampening my cantankerous spirit so I’ll make a slight concession and feature a great song this Good Friday that has the word ‘good’ flowing through it like a stick of rock. “Love looks good on you“, sing the Sleep Walking Animals on their indie folk track, ‘Aengus’ Fool’, originally released on Valentine’s Day. 

 

It’s a cracking track and really marks Sleep Walking Animals out as ones to look out for when live gigging resumes. A tour is tentatively planned for October. The vocal harmonies in Aengus’ Fool build and fall over the shuffling, broken march of the drums to produce something both relentlessly modern and vigorously vintage. There’s a slightly, sinister edge running throughout as well, an approach explained by Jack from the band when we exchange E- mails. 

We released Aengus’ Fool on valentines day because it’s a confession of infatuation and desire.“, he says. “And although the song is about love (it was inspired by Irish Mythology – Aengus is the god of love) it has darker undertones. I think we wanted to subvert the usual sickly expectations of valentines day.

I’m onboard with that. Jack also mentions that Sleep Walking Animals have another single, Wild Folk, out right now. “If you want something more current it might be worth reviewing that as well/instead.“, he suggests. I take a listen and there’s no denying it’s quality. 

But I think I’ll stick with my contrary, original plan and just feature Aengus’ Fool. Have a good Easter weekend one and all. 

Test Card Girl – If You’re Feeling Down & Don’t Go

I’m no doubt showing my age by saying that I remember the test card girl. I recall the general disappointment that was associated with the image of the young girl, Carole Hersee, and her toy clown, Bubbles, playing noughts and crosses. If they appeared on the screen when I was up early on a Saturday morning to watch cartoons then I’d know that I was up too early. It’s hard to contemplate now, awash as we are with 24 hour entertainment, that there were times of the day when the TV just had the still of the girl to keep you company. It was either that or baffling Open University programmes always presented by men in brown jumpers, big glasses and bushy beards. It all no doubt explains my fashion choices in later years. 

 

It’s thus a good thing that Catherine Burgis is reclaiming the Test Card Girl moniker for her musical pursuits. Nobody could possibly attach any sense of disappointment to her ‘life-affirming’ electro-folk. With lush, layered vocals and happy melody, Catherine is developing quite a knack for releasing modern day, catchy-as-hell nursery rhymes. There’s quite a buzz forming around this girl from Manchester and Sonic Breakfast endeavours to find out more.

Ah no secret, just started writing a bit later in life so feel like I’m on borrowed time!!“, says Catherine referring to the fact that she’s seeking pop success in her mid thirties. “Nothing planned yet but dying to get out there and start gigging – I’ve only ever done two gigs just before lockdown when I started out!!“, she says when I ask her about post-lockdown plans. 

As an older person who remembers the Test Card Girl the first time around, I’m always going to say that age is irrelevant – but in Catherine’s case, it truly is. Take the universal appeal of second single, If You’re Feeling Down. This simple folk song with exquisite melody was originally written for Catherine’s sister. The positive ‘pertinent reminder to take a breath, look up at the sun, and remember you are loved‘ can surely be applied wider in these tough times. 

The most recent single, Don’t Go, builds on the folk sounds of If You’re Feeling Down and amplifies them with top-notch electro swirls. Short and precise, Don’t Go is a tune you can dance along to whilst reminding yourself to stay well away from the bad stuff of your past. It’s blissful pop and will likely help you to smile broadly as you go about your April business. 

Don’t be fooled today – fight disappointment with Test Card Girl. 

 

 

 

EMERGER – Round We Go

This might come as a surprise to some but I take my ‘art’ seriously. Publishing a blogpost every day could be perceived as a tendency towards quantity over quality though I still have standards to maintain. If I’m not happy with the content of an article, I will start again. I can’t say that I’m ever up all night poring over my words to get the tone just right but there’s more teeth grinding and general grunt-work going into these short daily outbursts than the average Joe might think. 

I’m sure that Emma and Gerry, the emerging South African duo of EMERGER, would understand. Indeed, their wonderful latest offering ‘Round We Go’ is all about that creative process we go through to come up with our end-produce. “We wrote this song for all the creators out there.“, says Gerry. “The song chronicles the creative process and all of its intricacies. Everything involved with the creation of a work of art has so many layers of complexities, which we feel a lot of people have taken for granted.

Admittedly, when the song is as fine as ‘Round We Go’, it’s quite a challenge to take it for granted. Synth-based and drawing influence from the 80’s, Emma’s vocal comes to  the fore from the off before a big, bold chorus gets into your head. A word of warning – it’ll be one that goes round and round in your head after a listen or two. The lyrics of the opening verses especially , taut and neat, deftly describe those initial creative flurries as if it’s the first throes of a romantic relationship. 

Starts off with one idea, Tame at first, But then it evolves to, One million thoughts for every hour, Spinning ‘round no turning back from here. So much there is to say, The smokescreen fades, And colours come into play, I’m lost in conversation, With my word constellations.” 

I take the opportunity to ask Emma and Gerry how things have been in South Africa seeing as we hear lots about the potential Covid variants in our news broadcasts. “Yeah, things are going okay-ish over here.“, they say. “Happy that we have more time to create during the pandemic, but yeah the loss of income due to no gigs/touring have been a massive blow. The South African variant is definitely a real thing. The first batch of vaccines our government ordered proved to be ineffective against the mutated strain. So it was a huge fail and put a massive delay on the vaccination process. Things have started returning more and more to normal. There are isolated instances of gigs that are starting to take place again. But there’s some serious predictions of a third wave that’s still to come, because our government can’t vaccinate enough people soon enough.

That does sound serious. Clearly, world leaders need to bash their heads together and ensure that vaccination rates are more equitable across the globe. The triumphant xenophobia evident in the Daily Express (‘our vaccine deployment is better than yours’)  is no way to fight a global pandemic. But that’s probably a blog post for another day. 

For now, let’s all allow our creative juices to flow with the sweet sounds of EMERGER. 

 

Georgia and The Vintage Youth – Colour Blind

I’m sure we’ve all got friends who are pretty skilled at letting us know about the current state of their mental health. They’re the ones who post on Facebook when they’re having a down day and are frequently letting us know about every minor challenge that they face. I don’t want to under-appreciate their troubles but today’s song might not be for them. 

We’ve also all got friends who don’t want to be a burden, ‘the grin and bear it’ crowd. They drop ever so subtle hints that their mental health might not be quite all there but our ears are not really in tune with what they’re saying. We’re listening to the wrong words or refusing to accept what we hear because things don’t really compute in our head. Chances are that things during lockdown haven’t got any easier for these friends. Today’s song is for them. 

 

Georgia and The Vintage Youth released the track, Colour Blind, at the end of January. Swathed in a soulful rock ‘n’ roll swagger, the influence of Marilyn Monroe looms large throughout. It’s no surprise to discover that Georgia is a massive fan of Marilyn. “Quite a few people have remarked that they look similar!“, I’m told by her PR company. “Georgia has treated the last 12 months in the same way that she feels Marilyn would have. ‘Carpe Diem’. Make every day count and make the most of it.

Slap bang in the middle of Colour Blind, we get a short spoken word segment from Marilyn. “I’m not just generally happy, if I’m generally anything then I guess I’m generally miserable,“, says Marilyn to deaf ears. The audience laugh it off. They don’t want to believe that their pin-up can be troubled. 

“Colour Blind is a ballad about coming to terms with and addressing my own mental health.“, says Georgia about the track. “The chorus is a huge hint, encouraging people to check up on loved ones and notice what their eyes are saying as opposed to just the words they speak.

I think there’s a real talent emerging here. You might well be swayed when you listen as well. Don’t just listen to ‘Colour Blind’ today though. 

Moontwin – For Your Happiness

Cast your minds back a couple of months if you will? I published a post when I was just back in the UK from my long retreat in Spain to talk about the fascinating dreampop duo, Moontwin. (Piece here). Moontwin create their music from separate places, one in  the UK and one in Bulgaria. It doesn’t seem to impact upon their quality. They’ve released another track since early February. ‘For Your Happiness’ deserves attention. 

Single friends of mine tell me that they’d like to meet a partner, perhaps ‘the one’ for them and then their lives will be complete. I scoff at their assertions and suggest that they might be putting too much emphasis on the power of the other. They tend to concede that I’m right but still their search goes on; they copy and paste profiles onto dating apps saying what they think they’ll need for happiness. They should look within.

That’s what Moontwin’s ‘For Your Happiness’ is about – “our obsession with idealised, romantic love and the desire to seek our personal salvation through ‘the other’“. Centred around some deliciously stark spoken word from Hunter S Thompson’s The Proud Highway’, here’s a tune layered with rich melancholia, sinister progression and standout vocal harmony. Much is packed into the song’s three and a half minutes – exactly what Sonic Breakfast readers expect from their Monday morning tune. 

I ask the Moontwin duo what they might need to ensure their own happiness. “Happiness would be assured with an abundant supply of fine cheeses and wines to help navigate these trying times.“, says Mellie. I’m sure we can all agree with that. “Ideally accompanied by lashings of warm, buttery, yellow custard and baskets of kittens in lace attire.“, she adds more controversially. 

Zac’s request is less complicated. “A few litres of cheap unbranded vodka, some Marlborough reds“, he requests.

‘For Your Happiness’ is definitely not about meeting your dream lover.