Lena Minder – Stay Around

I’m not sure why but the often-cited ‘fact’ about Paul and Linda McCartney used to bring me out in a rash; Paul would say that, since meeting Linda, they had never spent a night apart. I’d wonder about the impossibility of this; Surely Paul’s work must have got in the way of such doting practice? Or, at the very least, surely there were times when one or the other fancied a night out with their own crowd? I’d try to validate my own objections (not that it’s any of my business) by mumbling something about ‘absence making the heart grow fonder’ and suggesting that it’s just not healthy to live in your partner’s pockets. By then, I think some of my friends had just written me off as cold and callous.

It’s true that I have friends now who are such a compatible match that they’re barely apart. It’s lovely and it makes me sick. In their togetherness, they’re able to find such happiness that they need no external distraction. They’ve sailed through lockdown and the challenges of Covid-19 largely because their lives have barely changed. I suppose, at the heart of my feeling, there’s an envy that such stability can be found within such limited horizons. Of course, the properly advanced state of thinking here would be ‘each to their own’. There are many ways to swing a cat and one man’s liquor is another man’s poison. 

Today’s Sonic Breakfast track, ‘Stay Around’ by Lena Minder, is a song all about togetherness and the enduring nature of some relationships. Conversely, it could also be about never quite being able to deal with the memories of a break-up. I guess the simple lyrics are left inconclusive to enable the listener to layer their own interpretation over. At its core though, Stay Around is, without doubt, a tender love song.

Beautiful and lush, Lena treats her listeners to enticing harmonies and vocal effects. Over a finger-picked guitar line, the song gently meanders with occasional piano chord to a sweet conclusion. Originally from Zurich and now living in Berlin, Lena recorded this out of ‘The Famous Goldwatch’ studios. 

I ask Thomas from the studio how things are going right now. “For now Lena plans to release a few singles which I’m sure she’ll eventually compile as an EP or even album.“, he tells me. “Lockdown is still hard for the musicians of course, but at least the weather now allows for busking and we try to keep our studio running as much as the restrictions allow us to.

Have a lovely Saturday full of happy coupling moments if you can. 

 

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. 

 

Grizzly Bird – The Drummer’s Trauma

I’ve always wished that I could play the drums. I had a lesson once when I was a young boy but, even then, I realised that getting my feet to do different things at different times to my arms was a step too far for somebody as naturally uncoordinated as I am. I guess it’s a skill that could have been channelled through intense practice but, by then, I’d picked up a guitar and was happier trying to learn an instrument where just two limbs (and fingers) are needed. (Insert Def Leppard comment if minded).

And drummers (for all of their skill in keeping any band on track along with a bass player) did seem to be at the butt-end of the jokes. Watch any interview with the Beatles and Ringo is the one who is laughed at by the others, the slight outsider who will be consigned to narrating Children’s TV series about toy trains in future years. Spinal Tap takes the narrative to the extreme with the spontaneous human combustion scenes and inability to hold onto a drummer.

Hans Gnendinger, the Berlin-based musician and main songwriter in the Grizzly Bird trio, is waxing lyrical about his approach to songwriting, an approach that in the case of ‘The Drummer’s Trauma’ keeps the light mocking well and truly alive. 

After writing Empathy and the birth of my son and I didn’t write a single song for two years. Not that I didn’t have any ideas, but they were always too big and too complicated. But when I showed my bandmates my very first recordings while on tour, I remembered how I wrote my first songs – little stories full of in-jokes inspired by my friends or things they said. So when drummer Florian Dietrich kept complaining at every rehearsal about his job working in the drum department of a well known Berlin music store, I realised I have a song right there.”

It’s an interesting, refreshing approach that leads to a quirky, interesting product. Slightly reminiscent in style and lyrical content to Jens Lekman, ‘The Drummer’s Trauma’ draws upon astute observation and humorous anecdote to pinpoint focus on some of life’s minutiae. And then, like a wayward stick of dynamite in a children’s cartoon, it blows the situation up just for fun. 

It’s a perfect Wednesday Sonic Breakfast track – and, even the drummers out there, might find something in the skewed rhythms to appeal? 

 

 

Michelle Daly – In My Dreams

You appear in my dream again. Intermittently, you do so (here). In this latest edition, we find ourselves on a coffee-tasting tour. We hop into an open-top vintage car (make and model unknown) and drive around the local hostelries to taste the flavour of their beans.

I’m a coffee novice but I can still distinguish between styles and types. The flavours are real. As I sip from one cup, the bitter roasted taste lingers on my tongue proudly announcing itself as a top dog of coffee. Let’s not forget that this is a dream. How is this even possible?

We’re young and carefree. We always are in this dream. The wind breezes through our hair ( I still have hair) as we travel from venue to venue. The radio is turned up loud and it plays a variety of hits from the eighties. Sometimes, we sing along if a tune catches our attention but mostly, despite the volume, it is background fodder. Instead, we chatter and laugh. We’re always happy in this dream even though we both know how it will end by now. 

As we pull into another place for one last coffee, I reach across to give you one last kiss. Our lips almost touch this time but before they do I wake. The pattern is familiar.

 

Michelle Daly, the Irish born and Berlin based songwriter, released the second single from a forthcoming album at the back end of 2020. ‘In My Dreams’ is a stylish and sultry soulful stroll through Michelle’s own land of dreams. She’s got a cracking voice for jazz classics and so the comparisons with Winehouse are inevitably drawn. It’s a tune that gives me lots of pleasure and I’m sure it will you.

We find Michelle contemplating the end of a brief flirtation. Or perhaps it’s the final days of a longer term relationship. Whatever, we know for sure that Michelle is coming to terms with the fact that she has put more into this than she’s been getting out. She’s been betrayed and is now the woman spurned. And she’s not crying into her coffee but working out ways to cope. 

I pity my friends who are unable to dream. They tell me, as if it’s a badge of honour, that they don’t dream or, if they do, they can’t remember them. I actively cultivate mine. Who would not want to wake with a hazy and happy memory from your sleep time? It strikes me that it’s even more important to have vibrant and wild dreams right now when our daily horizons are so streamlined.

Happy Monday all. 

 

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. 

Sonic Breakfast Top Ten 2019 – Number Two – Jonathan Bree and John Moods – The MOTH club

2019 was a full-on year of exploration for me. I loved nipping between the many, varied London venues discovering new delights. I’d struggle, if pushed, to name a favourite venue because there have been many iced buns in the bakery but high in the rankings would be Hackney’s stunning MOTH club. The repurposed British Legion Club is a fab gig venue; I’m yet to have a bad night there. 

 

And of the few MOTH club gigs that I could pick for this epic exercise of a top ten, I’m delighted to announce that number two in the countdown goes to the night spent with Jonathan Bree and support act, John Moods (written about here).

John Moods played Paper Dress Vintage, another favourite Hackney venue, in November but I foolishly managed to miss that. His single that came out in the summer, I Wanted You, was a real cracker. The German popster returned to Berlin and played all manner of gigs across Europe. 

 

I still smile when I consider Jonathan Bree’s direct generosity. A sold-out show, I’d given up hope of seeing Bree and band but the cheeky E-mail paid off. The friendly soul in a mask didn’t need to guest-list me but he did. I love that Jonathan Bree’s career has grown and grown in the last year. Once you see the live show it’s hard not to be smitten. 

New tracks are being drip-fed from a future album. They’re sounding solid and in ‘Cover Your Eyes’, you suspect that there’s another set highlight in the making. It’s been a year of relentless touring for Jonathan and band, including a first ever gig for them in the Ukraine. I wish I’d been there. Returning to Camden’s Dingwalls on May 1st, you’ll have to lock me in my room to stop me from being there. And this time I won’t be begging Jonathan for my ticket.