Sophia Marshall – Fire

Part of my reason for wanting to see Blue Rose Code at Leicester’s Cookie last week was that the support acts were so top-notch. 

I forgot that gigs start (and finish) a tad earlier at the Cookie than they do at other venues in town (step forward The Musician) so managed to miss half of the set from Sophia Marshall. But in the four tunes that I did see I knew that a Sonic Breakfast post was long overdue. 

Back in the days when I first moved to Leicester, The HaveNots were the talk of the town. Liam and Sophie were Leicester’s great Americana hope. Friends and I listened avidly to Bob Harris’ Radio 2 show in the hope that their classy cuts of love-swept Alt-country got an airing. It was hard to miss them around the city, especially if, like me, you were a regular gig goer down at the Musician.

I saw the HaveNots play outside of Leicester as well. Ollie, my son, was seven when we headed down to Larmer Tree in North Dorset for his first ever festival. We both watched, sat in a packed-out tent, as Liam and Sophie charmed all gathered. Liam made reference to Ollie from the stage, how it was his first festival and how exciting it must have been for a young lad of seven. Ollie’s now touching twenty-one. The years have flown. 

(Click on page 2 to be bought bang up to date)

Ladies – Trigger For Love

Cast your mind back to the distant past of 2016. I declared a love for Ladies back then (here), so much so that the trio from Liverpool prominently featured in my top ten of the year (here).

I’ve exchanged messages with lead singer, Chas, a fair bit since. When I’ve been up in Liverpool visiting my parents or heading out to a festival, we’ve made every effort to catch up over a beer or two. It’s always been interesting to hear about the plans for Ladies. Getting yourself heard when in a young band is fraught with challenges and frustrations but Chas’s determination that they’re going to ‘make it’ shines on through. You get a sense that the lucky break is coming; that their music is going to imminently be heard by a mover or shaker with the influence to help them realise their dreams.

They’ve just released a new video for their most recent single ‘Trigger For Love’. A word of warning – searching the Internet for ‘Ladies Trigger For Love video’ brings back all sorts of inappropriate oddness that a band with their healthy political outlook would be sure not to approve of. But it’s OK because you can link to the actual video from here.

The song itself is riddled with melody, completely characteristic of the band’s style. The Liverpool influence is pushed to the fore; it’s a tune that wouldn’t be out of place on The La’s classic album which is the highest of praise. 

Mersey-beat is alive and well and the scene is set for another iteration. Ladies are doing what they can to place themselves at the fore of that movement.

 

 

 

 

 

Pale Grey – Late Night

It’s hard to believe it was just two weeks ago that I was in Groningen; it feels longer. I’m sure that as 2018 progresses I’ll continue to curse myself for the bands I missed whilst at Eurosonic. There was so much going on though so I do have an excuse.

One such band that I missed was Pale Grey. This was despite some lovely communication with Max from their record label/booking agency, JauneOrange, heartily encouraging me to head along to the Huize Maas on Thursday.

It appears that ‘Pale’ is this year’s prefix for a cool band name (taking the place of ‘Crystal’ perhaps?). Despite coming from quite different genres, there were three ‘Pale’ bands at Eurosonic. To a casual outsider, it might prove challenging to distinguish between Pale Grey, Pale Honey and Pale Waves. 

The confusion gets even more complex when you consider that Pale Grey’s latest album, which has a Europe-wide release in March, is called ‘Waves’. And when you receive a press release saying ‘some acts are impossible to categorise. Pale Grey are one of those bands‘, the temptation is to throw your hands up in the air with despair. 

But that’d be foolish. You’d miss out on the music of Pale Grey which very much speaks for itself. “Through the lyrics and the melody, Pale Grey works to reconcile the air with the ground, the aerial with the carnal“, says the slightly pompous PR statement surrounding the band. It’s all about combinations and fusions apparently. Let’s listen. 

Latest single, Late Night, is compelling. Pale Grey’s songs don’t typically feature rap but this one’s got Serengeti involved. We descend with the band into an alcohol-infused stupor, a drunken stumble home from an excessive night out. 

My favourite of their single releases from the upcoming album, Seasons, is a short and stunning consideration of how life passes all of us by so quickly. It’s quite different to ‘Late Night’ and you begin to see the complexities of a band refusing to be pigeon-holed. 

The album has had a release in their native Belgium. I’m looking forward to hearing more when it’s released here. 

 

 

Ferris & Sylvester – Made In Streatham

Today, I’m wearing colourful socks. As part of my efforts to sort out drawers and wardrobes before heading off to Spain I’ve been decluttering. And yesterday evening, it was the sock and pant drawer that got a going over. 

Some decisions were easy. Some pairs of pants had seen better days in the gusset department and the novelty thong-like ones were never a good idea in the first place. I did wonder how I had come to acquire a collection of so many individual black and grey socks. How had they been festering in this drawer for so long? How were these sole socks in any way useful? I couldn’t bear the pain of matching them so the bin now has them.

Result – my sock and pant drawer now looks tidy and vibrant. I mightn’t wear many colourful clothes (black jacket, blue jeans being my go-to position) but I can excel in colourful socks. The bright yellow socks I kept are a sheer delight.

In other news, I’ve been enjoying a sneaky listen to the excellent new EP from Ferris & Sylvester which comes out on Friday. ‘Made In Streatham’ has 5 tracks on it all loosely detailing what modern life in London is like for this aspiring country-folk-pop duo.

They recently released a video for a fine track ‘Better In Yellow’. It’s an uplifting slice of bluesy Americana, which finds the pair adding big brass notes into their mix of guitar licks and beautiful harmonies. 

When asked about the song’s meaning the band say, “We liked the idea of writing about yellow being a positive state of mind, happy and vibrant, instead of settling for greyness. It can be easy to wear black and blend in. Sometimes though, it’s best to be yourself, put on some bright colours and not care too much.”

Which is exactly what I’m doing with my socks.

Another track from the EP, The Room, caught Sonic Breakfast’s attention in 2017. Like some of the finer moments of The Beautiful South, this duet (and accompanying video) charts the ups and downs in a fragile relationship between a couple. It’s both optimistic and desperate, beautiful and sad. And it’s definitely worth five minutes of your time. 

 

 

Buckwheat Zydeco

In an occasional Sonic Breakfast feature, I’ll head outside of my mailbox for inspiration. The PR companies can take a rest for I have a new way of finding music to feature; the random search. 

The idea – I use one of the many random word generators online to come up with a random word or words. I then use a Spotify search to see what songs or artists are listed when searching for that word.

I played the game and got ‘buckwheat’. I’d heard of Buckwheat Zydeco before but I confess I didn’t know much more. The internet is such an rich resource tool and I set about exploring. I’m glad I did. 

First stop – The Guardian obituary page (here) in September 2016:-

“The singer, accordionist, keyboard player and bandleader Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural Jr, who has died aged 68 from cancer, was a cultural ambassador for zydeco, the traditional dance and party music of black southern Louisiana. He was the first zydeco musician to be signed by a major record company, his albums were nominated for Grammy awards, his songs were heard on movie soundtracks and in television ads, he played at festivals in the US and Europe, and he opened shows for Eric Clapton and U2.”



68 is no age to die. We can all agree on that and lung cancer is an indiscriminate bitch. I watch some Buckwheat Zydeco videos and get carried away in the happy feeling they produce. The online obituaries all say largely the same things. I search for three Buckwheat things elsewhere on the web that might interest Sonic Breakfast readers. 

(Click on page 2 for those 3 things of interest)

David Thomas Broughton – The Cookie – November 22nd 2017

My good friend Paul Champion sent me a lovely review of a gig he went to in November. 

That sentence might be understood in a couple of ways. For clarity, Paul went to a gig in November and he also sent me a review in that month. Sonic Breakfast has been disappointingly tardy in publishing Paul’s efforts. For that, I apologise.

Here’s his fine review. I get a sense that he liked the gig.

The Cookie is on High Street, Leicester. The bar is at ground floor level and the venue is down in the cellar.

David Thomas Broughton is here early, with his partner and toddler.

Adam Weikert is first on stage. He plays keyboard with effects and occasional acoustic guitar. Adam has a beard, a bun and glasses, and a nice line in self-deprecation. He has a hesitant piano style, with chanting, which sounds like church music. There are children’s voices and birdsong, too. He has a system of switching lights on and off, so that we know when a song has finished and we can applaud. He’s good. In places his songs have a whisper of The Incredible String Band. He finishes with a song about suicide, called Rope.

Next on is Peter Wyeth. There’s still only a handful of people here. He plays acoustic guitar on a loop, sometimes with a stick. It’s intense and twiddly. He probably works with computers.

David Thomas Broughton is from Yorkshire. His consonants are hard. His voice is deep and high at the same time. The sweetest voice, but at the same time reminiscent of the brilliant Jake Thackray. He challenges. He makes you feel uncomfortable. He sings beautiful acoustic folk songs and disrupts them with blasts of noise from an effects pedal. He does weird body language, pulling at his trousers in a frottage kind of way, and patting his belly. He grabs at things that aren’t there. He takes his phone out of his pocket and concentrates on it while there’s a loop playing. Is he playing his mobile phone, or is he just playing with his mobile phone? He’s joined on stage by the two support acts, and a trombone player, and they form a band. He plays a gizmo like a Theremin. There’s no chat, no applause, it’s just one continuous number. Percussion comes from tapping pens on microphones and from the screw top of his drinks container. Before you can be an artist you have to be a craftsman. He knows his craft. Art is what artists do. Art makes you see things differently. This is art. Who can you say a genius is? Isaac Newton? Picasso? Townes Van Zandt? Not Bob Dylan. Not even Peter Hammill. David Thomas Broughton is a genius. Sirens. Love. Phew! Love.

A genuine encore. For 25 people who recognise his genius.

 

Erin Pellnat – Neighborhood Boys

I receive an E-mail from Erin Pellnat. It catches my eye one morning when I’m on the train heading into Birmingham.

Hello Sean“, says Erin.  “I write to introduce you to “Neighborhood Boys,”  a song about falling in love with a guy on a bus — but he gets off at his stop and leaves me with the neighborhood boys on the bus.” 

There’s a beautiful simplicity about Erin’s approach. I’m not averse to deep, philosophical songs about the meaning of life but sometimes such tunes can feel complicated, aloof and emotion-less. Sometimes, you want a simple premise that’ll tug at your heartstrings a bit; you want a three minute segment from your favourite tearjerker of a film; you want glorious romance albeit of an unrequited kind.

I take a listen to Erin’s track. There’s something about her voice that gets me. There’s no over-the-top warbles or ridiculous squeezing of pitch. It’s all very considered and mannered. Yet it’s in that very understated vocal that the emotion (of which there’s plenty) comes through. In many ways, for me at least, it invokes a similar sort of feel to that I get when I listen to the late 1960’s work of Bobbie Gentry or Dusty Springfield. And that’s high praise. 

I notice when I check back through my E-mails that Erin had sent me one previously to highlight the release of her earlier EP, Dream In Color. Rudely, I’d not even replied to that. I’m glad that Erin didn’t get the hump with me for that and kept sending me mails. It pays to be persistent. 

I wonder if ultimately persistence will pay off for Erin with the guy on the bus? I guess we’ll have to watch this space!