Rime Salmi – Batwanes Beek

It’s always good to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and to embrace new things. As the years advance, it’s one way to stop yourself getting staid or stuck in your ways. There’s so much to discover in this wonderful world and precious little time to find out about it all. Why settle with what you know when around the corner there might be something that can give you even more joy and happiness – as long as you go into it with eyes wide open? 

That is, of course, so true when listening to music. Our tastes are formed young and we keep returning to those tracks of our youth (and songs that sound like them) because of their familiarity. They offer us comfort and it’s easy to see why they might provide our go-to moments.

Sometimes, I like to shake up my listening. I’ll deliberately find tracks from genres that I know next to nothing about and dig into what I find. To a degree, this is how I stumbled upon ‘Batwanes Beek’ by Rime Salmi. I’m very glad I did. A cover of an ‘Arabic classic’ by Warda, Rime has turned the tune into her very own Afro-pop anthem. 


In my ignorance, I know very little about ‘Arabic classics’ or Warda who first released this song. But the internet is such a rich encyclopaedia and Wikipedia such an extensive resource that things don’t stay mysteries for long. 

Warda, the Algerian Rose, was born in Paris to a Lebanese mother and an Algerian father. Her father owned a nightclub and encouraged her to sing patriotic Algerian songs from a young age. A ten year break from singing (her first husband forbade her to) was broken in 1972 when she sang to commemorate Algeria’s independence. After divorcing her grumpy husband, she married again and her career blossomed. She cooked with wine and became something of a superstar commanding a state funeral when she passed away in 2012 aged 73. Warda sounds like she lived a full life of pushing out of her comfort zone. 

Rime Salmi was born in Morocco but raised in Canada. For Rime, it’s clearly very important to both embrace the culture she comes from as well as the one she has grown up in. What we get in this version of ‘Batwanes Beek’ is a vibrant explosion of happy sound. It’s hard not to smile when listening to the spirited joy on offer here – and we all need to smile more now than ever. 

And then there is the video that features Rime and three well-known dancers from Montreal’s LGBTQ scene proudly using the city as an urban catwalk. Rime sums it up better than I ever could when she says that “this video is a scream. This video is a statement. This video is a manifesto. Arab LGBTQ+ people exist, love and love one another… and it’s something to celebrate.” 

Happy hump day – keep being curious.

Nothing Special – Brandi

I’m not coming home yet. I had a flight that was booked at the end of December but it didn’t seem to make a great deal of sense to get on it. England is a grey, drizzly damp squib most January’s but in 2021 the prospects are even worse. With Covid out of control and the country entering into its umpteenth lockdown, it wasn’t a hard decision to make to choose to stay in Spain a little longer. 

Not that it’s a bed of roses here. Weather forecasts for the next week look cold; a daily low of two degrees feels severe when villa’s have no central heating. New Covid lockdown regulations will be coming into play here meaning that bars and restaurants have to close at 5PM and there’s a curfew on the streets from 10. And of course, Brexit means that I’m having to count my days spent here with a 90 day allowance in any rolling 180 being a reality.

Still I’m not coming home. And I’m not the only one. 

Nothing Special are a new pop punk boy band from Ontario. In their incredibly breezy song, Brandi, they also admit to whoever Brandi is that they’re not coming home. We don’t get to learn from where they’re not arriving or indeed who Brandi is in relation to the protagonist but my sense is that this doesn’t matter one jot. 

This is happy, upbeat music made to bring smiles to your face as you recall what it was like to skate around neighbourhoods freely and without care. I reckon we all need some sort of bouncey boost to help get the spring into our January step. And this should do that trick.



Alexandra Streliski – Kings Place – May 7th 2019

Curiosity might have killed the cat. But it’s what keeps me alive. Later this week I’ll be heading to Brighton for my first festival of 2019, The Great Escape. That’ll be a frenetic rush around Brighton trying hard to get a glimpse of the next big thing. I’ll be a child in a sweet shop. 

So, in advance of the anticipated headiness of the next few days, tonight I opt for classical Canadian calm. 

As it happens, Alexandra Stréliski also plays The Great Escape. And, should I want a retreat from the rush, I might well check her out again on the coast. Her set at Kings Place, the multi-use space up by St Pancras, has chill by the bucketloads. This is one show that demands that you drift into a dreamland of your own making. 

Alexandra takes to the stage – a mass of curly brown hair hiding a slightly awkward yet utterly charming manner. She sits by a Steinway grand piano and proceeds to play. Smoke machines provide haze on the proceedings; they obscure Alexandra’s eccentricities. We just about spy her swoops and flourishes. 

Some of the instrumental pieces she plays, always ripe with melody, are accompanied with graphics appearing on a black curtain behind her. Art appears to aid exploration; an old video tape of a joyful Alexandra as a child playing her first keyboard is introduced and we all ponder for a moment on our own lost innocence.

Alexandra’s happy to be in London. She was last here as a fifteen year old and learnt one of life’s lessons when she drank too much alcohol and was hideously ill. This is her minor redemption. She tells all that she’s living a very specific dream by touring her music around the world, no longer a slave to the TV and film companies for whom she used to compose.

It’s meditative in tone; the piano, when played well, can take you away to imaginary places. And in this darkened room I suspect that most of us are shutting our eyes, dreaming our dreams  and focusing on a better future. That a gig can elicit such positivity is no bad thing. 

I add another to my Brighton longlist.. 

JP Hoe – Beautifully Crazy

It was some years ago now that I went, as part of a group of friends, to a Pantomime production in a village hall. I seem to remember that one of my friends very loosely knew somebody connected with the play; they might have had a friend who had a daughter in the chorus or something similar. Whatever, a thing that attracted this group of friends to go en masse to a village hall full of strangers was the pure outlandishness of it all. We were outsiders causing a bit of consternation. “No Janice, I don’t know who they are either”, we heard the lady whisper whilst serving at the tea bar. 

We had such fun at Kirby Muxloe (this was the village hall location) that we established an ambitious plan. Visiting village halls to sample the specific entertainment going on within would become a regular pursuit. Confusing locals with our urban, presence would become our goal. Yes, we even set up a closed Facebook group (The Village Hall Preservation Society) to co-ordinate our aim. 

But, like many of the best-made plans, we never followed through. Life took over and the gigs, plays and quiz nights within our city walls always seemed more exotic. 

A week or so ago I was sent an invite to a gig that’s happening at Medbourne Hall, not far from Leicester. I had to look at Google Maps to check where Medbourne was. The hall website simply says that they’ve got a ‘Canadian Music Artist’ playing next Saturday. 

JP Hoe was a new name to me but I clicked and watched the video to his new song, ‘Beautifully Crazy’. I liked the tune enough to secure tickets to the village hall show. I couldn’t entirely understand why this ‘6 time Western Canadian Music Award nominated’ chap was heading to Medbourne but appreciated that the press release said ‘he has the enviable skill of sounding as good stripped down around a campfire as he does in a soft seat theatre with a full orchestra.’ Above everything, I realised that there’s a talent here who needs supporting as he tours the world.

I think it’s going to make for an interesting Saturday night. Who else is in? 

New Hands – Strange Attractor

Christmas is coming and so I thought I’d post a new video that makes absolutely no reference to ‘that time’ at all. Bah Humbug. Predictably for this time of year, the weather outside is cold. Perhaps, not as icily cold as it’s been in previous years but it’s still cold. Some might say though that it’s actually freakishly mild.

People with brains much bigger than mine have spent considerable time and energy understanding theories of chaos and random patterns. In its mathematical context, the term ‘strange attractor’ refers to ‘a complex pattern of behaviour within a chaotic system’ – much like the weather.

New Hands are a Canadian band with some roots in West Yorkshire as well. They’ve just released an interesting video/art project to accompany their ‘Strange Attractor’ tune. This video uses a randomised sequence of over 900 GIF files, creating a different video with each single view. I’m drawn to the creativity involved. Brief, unconnected glimpses into the lives of strangers from another time and place.

There’s an industrial 80’s feel to the tune itself. Fans of Depeche Mode will recognise the tone and timbre. New Hands will be releasing their first album in 2015 and it’s one that’s on my list to watch out for.

 Having trouble embedding the video – maybe all of those GIFs are creating havoc and chaos so here it is by link instead..


The Cardboard Crowns – An interview

I’ve been listening to The Cardboard Crowns quite a bit recently. Their new(ish) album, Global Citizen, has me hooked. Long train journeys have passed by in a flash. I’ve simply plugged my headphones in and allowed myself to drift off into the exuberant ska pop punk world that they inhabit. Here I ask one of my new favourite bands ten questions by way of introduction….

(1) Many readers of Sonic Breakfast might not have heard of ‘The Cardboard Crowns’. In less than 100 words tell them what they need to know…

The Crowns are a four piece blast of something different. We really try to deliver high energy, high involvement entertainment. There’s a lot of boring archaic convention in show business these days… that’s something we try to blow to pieces. We’re also really big on (as the title of our new album Global Citizen would suggest) trying to get people to identify themselves more with the human race than it’s sub sects. We’re all humans, lets have a good time together, and also try to think about those of us who are in rough spots as though they were our family.

(2) What have been your highlights and lowlights of 2014?

We’ve had some really awesome times this year. This is the first year we’ve really had an opportunity to drop the gloves and hit the road. We’ve played some awesome festivals: Ottawa’s Sparks st. new years eve event with K-OS, Beer Fest in Toronto with Wide Mouth Mason, Hope Volleyball With Matt Good, and we’ve been lucky enough to play a couple shows along the way with one of our biggest influences The Planet Smashers. That said, we REALLY loved our album release mini tour through Montreal Ottawa and Toronto. The support was really out of this world! As for lowlights… I guess we had one fiasco show (I won’t say where…) but my (Joel) throat was infected so I tried some REALLY COOL mime intro… miming is clearly not a forte of mine I guess. At any rate we made It through the set, and my car tow bill was only $250. Nasty business.

(3) You’re from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Is it a city with a good music scene? What are the best and worst things about living there?

The scene in Ottawa is interesting… it’s a bit of a lazy little town when looking from the outside. But the most packed shows we play are always there. The support in Ottawa is unreal, and there’s something so cool about having a nearly fully bilingual crowd. There are some REALLY talented bands from Ottawa as well, our good Buddies Finding Chuck and Mosquitos for starts… but I could really go all day with awesome Ottawa acts. Great town for music, it has a great attitude and support system for it’s artists, and great artists for it’s fans.

(4) In the past month you’ve released the terrific album, Global Citizen. Apart from the fact that Global Citizen is also the title of one of your songs, why did you settle on this title for the album? Is it important to be a Global Citizen and why/why not?

We titled the album Global Citizen for a few reasons: A) we really love that crowd hook at the end, B) (more seriously) it kinda sums up a lot of what we’re about. The lyrics talk about human fragmentation, and how we relate more strongly to a kinda silly national identity (beavers + maple syrup + “thank you sorry eh”) than we do to the suffering and state of affairs outside of our immediate field of vision.

(5) Bits of the album suggest an anger (or at least a frustration) with the music industry. What’s wrong with it and what would you change about it if you could?

I suppose you’re PROBABLY asking about Pulling Teeth. Really I wrote that song about advertising and the culture that’s sold between the satirical one-liners in our commercials. That said… the state of the industry has a lot of similar goofiness as well. We’re bombarded every day with the same 4 chords and lowest-common-denominator “sex n’ money” lyrics; Pulling Teeth is about how selling the idea that you’re not good enough unless you have X amount of dollars and intercourse, at the cost of our confidence and self respect, is REALLY destructive to our humanity.



(6) Who are your influences?

Main influences I guess are Toots and the Maytals, Sublime, Planet Smashers, Against me, all our friends, and global events.

(7) The video to ‘Hat’s off’ is a pretty entertaining watch. What was the thinking behind it when you made it?

Ahhhh the Hats off video haha. A few of our dear friends at Prototype D invited us to an abandoned factory to shoot some sort of video. It was all very loosy goosy show up and see what happens, so that morning the boys and I decided we’d surprise them by dressing up like super (idiots) heroes! They were certainly surprised as we showed up over an hour late (we’re real divas when it comes to superhero costumes). So feeling a little bashful we apologized for the late arrival, and followed that up with “And no we don’t have a clue what to do for this video”. I don’t even think we knew we were going to shoot hats off. We basically had to turn a somewhat uncomfortable situation around visa vi running around like clowns, jumping, and climbing whatever we could find. Luckily the city workers and our good pals at Prototype D forgave us, and all in all the video came out quite well!

(8) Is it obligatory to wear a cardboard crown at a ‘Cardboard Crowns’ gig? Who typically wears the best one?

It’s not mandatory or anything… but it can be lucrative! Originally our hardcore friend-base started wearing crowns to our shows to show their support. We then tried to reciprocate the love (and start a wicked gimmick) by offering discounts ticket rates at the door for people wearing home-made crowns. We’ve seen SO many awesome crowns at our shows over the years it’s hard to pick the best. We had one gentleman with a castle for a crown, complete with working draw bridge, we’ve seen Lord Sauron’s crown carefully constructed over at least several hours… personally I love it when people incorporate egg cartons. Those ones are just hilarious for some reason.

(9) What are your plans and dreams for 2015 (and onwards)?

The Crowns want to do it. We want to be a self sufficient, fully independent band that tours and meets cool new friends and have a great time. We want to try to get people onboard with global thinking, and we want to, frankly, make a positive change in the world. It’s a tall order, but with the amount of awesome people jumping on board every day, be it by donating to doctors without borders, at our album release shows, showing solidarity with crowns, making AWESOME cover videos (montreal boys!) it feels like it’s happening, and we couldn’t be more excited and thankful!

(10) And finally – energetic humour isn’t far from the surface with ‘The Cardboard Crowns’. What’s your current favourite joke?

Hmmm… I feel like the best jokes the crowns know are usually when we actively try be funny on stage. Every time we plan any sort of gag, or joke or whatever we always get a TON of laughs… The kind of laughs that manifest themselves 2 years down the line in one of those “hey remember how DUMB that idea was?! MAN are we lame” kinda conversations. I think our favourite jokes are one ones where everyone ends up laughing at how bad we SUCK at being funny lol. Anyone who’s been to a crowns show will know our banter is always ripe with this kind of “comedy”!


I don’t know about you – but I can’t wait for these guys to be able to tour Europe. They’d make a pretty decent festival band…

Nick Price – Cabin Built For Two

There’s a moment (just after two minutes and 45 seconds) in this new tune from Nick Price when an unfeasibly dirty, almost grunge-like saxophone jazz solo kicks in. It’s at this point that pure sex penetrates through the soulful, smouldering tone that has gone before. This is the clothe-shedding, carpet burning climax that’s touching the stars. It’s hard not to get carried away.

I’ll set the scene as I see it.There’s this remote cabin that’s built for two. Nick Price is in it singing sweet neo-soul. Early drumbeats sound like nails being hammered in to strengthen the endurance of the wooden shag shack. For tonight, if Nick gets his way, the shed is going to rock n’roll with moans and groans. Stars will provide the light. There’ll be enough electricity even though this place isn’t connected to the grid. Are you getting the picture? I won’t go on.

Nick Price is a Canadian now living in LA. There’s an obvious quality and class about this tune and it’s no surprise to discover that Nick is classically schooled. This is only his second release. His first, Naked Souls, created quite a buzz of interest and I’m sure that interest is only going to multiply as more get to know about his music. 

This isn’t bombastic, in yer face, soul but rather it’s jazz-tinged late night smoochy soul. It’s hard not to be impressed. Feel the love.



Elder Island – What It’s Worth

According to Wikipedia, ‘Elder Island is an irregularly shaped island located at the eastern opening of the Fury and Hecla Strait. Situated in Nunavut’s Qikiqtaaluk Region within the northern Canadian Arctic, the island is north of the Melville Peninsula and Ormonde Island. It is approximately 1 km (0.62 mi) south of Baffin Island, while the Foxe Basin is to the east.’

I am still none the wiser where it is if I’m honest. But, it sounds cold there and it’s uninhabited by all accounts – apart from polar bears. There are, arguably, better places to go on holiday.

Elder Island are also a soulful, three piece from Bristol. They’ve got an EP coming out in June/July and in advance of that, they’ve elected to release ‘What It’s Worth’ to the world – or at least to Soundcloud.

They’ve played slots at the ace Shambala festival and, I believe, are listed to play this year. For what it’s worth, I’ll look to check them out. I’m sure they put on quite a show.

For the first couple of minutes of this tune, the handclaps and bass drum beats create icy spikes and troughs in the Soundcloud player view that might well replicate the angular, jagged, irregularly shaped landscape of the Canadian Island. But, as the song progresses, a flurry of snowflakes fall and we are drawn to the question of the day, ‘What’s it all worth?’.

No conclusive answer is drawn but the polar bears are moving their feet tonight. 


Liverpool Sound City – Rah Rah

My review from last nights Micah P. Hinson gig for eGigs is half-complete. It was an odd, shambolic, strangely compelling show and I’ve been agonising over content. Sonic Breakfast gives me a temporary reprieve from that.

Another Liverpool Sound City preview today as it draws ever closer. Indeed, in a weeks time, delegates will no doubt be heading to breakfast, nursing their hangovers, convinced that they’ve just seen the next big thing. 

Saskatchewan’s best, Rah Rah are already quite a big thing in their native Canada. Back in 2009, they were awarded ‘Best Alternative New Artist’ and ‘Best New Canadiana Artist’ by I-tunes there. I’ll be completely honest that this genre, ‘Canadiana’, is a new one on me but I guess it’s one we can file Neil Young under. Since 2009, Rah Rah have simply developed this initial promise. Last year’s album, ‘The Poet’s Dead’, confidently strides across a variety of styles whilst never straying far from tuneful, lyrical, country pop ensemble. It’s like a more accessible, less awkward Broken Social Scene. I’ll probably be hated by many for saying that this is no bad thing. 

I understand that Rah Rah’s live show is something else. The six members of the band show off their talents by swapping instruments mid song. They take turns with percussive instruments, climb on their amp stacks and bounce from whatever fixture and fitting will take them. They’ve been known to sprinkle audience members with confetti. It all sounds like an interactive, immersive experience – the sort of show that Arcade Fire will be trying to pull from their bag in a couple of months from a Somerset field. 

 You get two chances to catch Rah Rah over the Sound City weekend. They’re playing Korova on the Friday night (which apparently isn’t the iconic venue from yesteryear but a place that has simply adopted the name) and groundbreaking, no alcohol bar, The Brink on Saturday at midnight. Which one of those two do you think I’m more likely to be at?