Elina Filice – First World Problems

We’ve all been there; you’re watching a local band in a bar and thoroughly enjoying their original material when they say those dreaded words – “And now we’re going to do a cover version of one of our favourite songs“. Chances are that it’s a cover version of a song that you really like also. The band think they’re Rock Gods and begin to play completely overlooking the dynamics that made the song initially so great. You have to walk away as you feel the anger rising.

Ok – perhaps we’ve not all been there and maybe it’s just me? But I don’t deal with live covers well. And don’t even get me started on tribute bands. I realise that people gravitate towards familiarity when out and about (or at least did when they could go out). For me, originality is the key.

You won’t find many covers featured on Sonic Breakfast for this very reason. The exceptions to that unwritten rule are that the song is a cover of something so obscure that I’ve never heard the original – or that by covering a song, an artist has bought something new and unique to the table. In this cover of ‘First World Problems’, an unreleased track by Chance The Rapper, Elina Filice ticks both of those boxes.

Fans of Chancelor Johnathan Bennett have long yearned for him to officially release the track he performed live on a TV show. For some reason he never has. Elina has taken the song, rewritten the spoken word verses to make them much more personal to her and simply left the chorus in tact. It’s a complete renovation of an under the radar song. And it’s quite wonderful. 

The song is a critical reflection on the last few years,“, says Elina. “From leaving the comfort and structure of university to figuring out what to do with my life, the struggles of being an artist, searching for meaning, and trying to understand the world around me.

The artist from Canada enlists the help of Dublin-based singer/songwriter, Cat, to provide a haunting backing vocal. This is perhaps none too surprising given that Elina has previously spent much time in Dublin. “Yes I miss (pre-covid) Dublin terribly!“, she says in a short E-mail exchange. “It’s a great city with a vast music/arts scene, not to mention a cheap flight away from anywhere in Europe.

You can’t say fairer than that. Elina Filice, alone in the studio, following dreams and thinking critically about the world recognises it’s a tough and sometimes lonely road. I hazard a guess that regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will be keen to follow. 


For Those I Love – I Have A Love

I’ve headed to Alicante for the weekend. Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will know that this is my happy place. I love the solitude that I get from the villa out in the country but need the buzz of a city from time to time. 

And Alicante gives me that even if the 2020 version is a muted and mutated version of what has gone before. I walked down the esplanade en route to my hotel yesterday and had it all to myself. The hotelier tells me that he might only have money for a couple of weeks more trading. These are desperate times. 

But last night out in the old town I sat under the stars and watched the world go by. There was still an energetic and contagious buzz; we remembered how to smile and laugh amidst the infectious giggles. 

I headed back to my hotel and listened to a piece of music that totally knocked me sideways. I’ve now watched this video a dozen times on repeat and I plan to watch it a dozen times more. 

I remember the very first time I listened to Original Pirate Material by The Streets. Mike Skinner introduced himself as a talent to behold with his gritty, humorous observations about working class life in Birmingham and I adored it. For Those I Love achieve something similar, albeit working class life in Dublin, with this track I have a love’. I can pay no greater compliment. 

For Those I Love is the life project of Dave Balfe. He wrote this piece to honour the memory of his best friend and former band mate, Paul Curran, who died suddenly a couple of years back. In one fell swoop, the beautiful, observational spoken-word poetry builds over a growing electronica swarm to establish a more than fitting tribute for a friend. The video, laced with footage from their friendship, manages to be both beautiful and sad. I defy anyone watching to not feel the lump in the throat as the song builds to its point of no return. 



Dave puts it better than I ever could when he says, “When it happened, and life froze over, the only way out was through the songs.
How else can I show my love, how else can I remember what we had and what we made, but through the art itself.”

Ren – My Heart Belongs To Ireland

I was working in Nottingham yesterday. Within my office, you could hear the muted strains of classic Irish folk tunes rising up from the Market Square below. 

I took a late(ish) lunch and wandered about the streets taking in the atmosphere that was being generated by St Patricks Day. The cheap pubs were heaving with a sea of green. Men and women wore Guinness foam hats as they supped on their lagers. The pubs spilled over with punters taking advantage of the warm day to grab a cheeky cigarette. In some cases, parents appeared to have brought their young primary school children to the party. “Watch Mummy and Daddy get pissed because it’s tradition“, seemed to be the educational message for the school kids as they drank their sugary soft drinks. 

I ventured out after work as well. Predictably, the scene had turned darker than that seen during the lunchtime exuberances. On a street corner stood a women, barking at her remaining friends as mascara ran down her tear-strewn face. “She’s a fucking untrustworthy bitch“, I heard and couldn’t help but wonder what drunken confusion had led to such a character assessment. Elsewhere, I jumped over pools of piss and vomit. I avoided those, still in high spirits, who blocked the pavements as they swayed from side to side, arms wrapped around mates, having the best day of their lives. 

A lengthy and potentially pointless introduction to a charming song by Ren that I first heard a couple of weeks ago. In ‘My Heart Belongs To Ireland’, Ren goes exploring over on the west coast of Ireland and discovers kindred spirits and common allies. It’s clear that Ren is a talented musician and a convivial imbiber and you can see why he draws such conclusion. Dare I say it – the fairy tale Ireland that he describes appears miles removed from the theme park tribute act version that I witnessed in Nottingham City centre yesterday. 

I’ve got a fair few lovely friends in Dublin and beyond. I dare say that they’re nursing hangovers today but I’d also hazard a guess that their stomachs would have turned if they’d have been in Nottingham.

Ren, the rapscallion, could well be wearing blinkers as he strums out this made for Radio 2 gem. But, I’d rather buy into his respectful yet rogue-ish sense of Ireland than anything else. 


Theo Bard – Memories of Dublin

It couldn’t have been timed with more precision. I was sat in Dublin airport after an extended weekend in Ireland. My flight was a tad delayed and so I opened up my Sonic Breakfast mailbox to check what had recently been sent. 

“Acclaimed East London singer-songwriter Theo Bard has revealed his new single, Memories of Dublin.  This uplifting song tells a story of a short and sweet love affair, in the typically direct and frank narrative style that marks him out as an exceptional songwriter,” ran the PR blurb. 

“The song is a clever play on the Irish folk song Dublin City in the Rare Old Time, with references to the lyrics throughout. While the song pays homage to the folk tradition, there is nothing backward looking about it, as Theo delivers a full and evocative sound that hits you in the gut“, it continued.

I was intrigued. After a few nights and days of excessive drinking, I was feeling like I’d been hit in the gut and again in the head. It might have only been a weekend break but I’d had my very own short and sweet love affair with Dublin as a place. Amongst beautiful people, I had laughed so much over the course of the weekend that unfamiliar muscles ached. 

I clicked on the link and fell in love with the ramshackle tale of winter travels, glimpses of love and loss. 

This wasn’t the first I’d heard about Theo. A couple of months before I’d got myself added to a guest list for a show he was playing at the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen. I’d watched the video to his song ‘Never Alone’ as my run of summer festivals drew to a close. It caught my attention and I declared an interest to feature it on Sonic Breakfast. Life took over (it’s been an odd few months – future posts will give an insight into that) and on the night of the gig, I succumbed to a head cold that turned my brain to mush. 

The timing is now right to share. 




Jet Setter – Dippin’ Toes

“If you dip your toes into something, you start doing that thing slowly and carefully, because you are not sure whether it will be successful or whether you will like it.”

And such is the cautious dilemma that lead singer, Ross Hamer, finds himself in for this latest single from Dublin’s Jet Setter. Amidst a fuzzy guitar riff, decisively speeding along towards its final resting point (there’s so much hurry in this two minute gem that there’s no time for a chorus as such) Hamer tries hard to hammer against the urgency. He’s really not sure whether he likes this person/this thing very much but he keeps coming back. Five times.

Today, Jet Setter have released a video for the song. This shows them off as the jaunty exuberant lads that I thought they might be after listening to their tunes. Pizza spinning, jocular banter and bargain buys, it might make you feel a bit hungry. I’m not sure that it says anything about ‘Dippin’ Toes’ and was probably just filmed as an excuse to get free pizza. This is no bad thing.

Long may such indecisiveness continue…