Palo G – Memorias

I’ve taken a few days away from Sonic Breakfast posts. It’s been a necessary thing to do. The morning routine has been taking longer when I’ve had to do it with a limp. Things that you take for granted like putting your socks on suddenly become an epic battle of mind over matter. I’m feeling better now though with more mobility – ready to fire on all cylinders again.

 

I needed a banger of a tune to get me through the weekend; that’s what we get in Palo G’s latest, Memorias. Spirited and strident, this mix of Latin rhythm, flamenco guitar and nailed-on message won’t fail to turn your head. In the pre-chorus, Palo recalls the years from eleven to sixteen and first becoming aware of the damaging impact of gender identity problems and sexual assault trauma. “y yo le dije que no, y tu seguistes, y en el infierno my alma pusistes“, is sung as the memories build, a stark line and one that can’t fail to elicit outrage from any right-minded listener. 

At its heart though, Memorias is a triumphant battle against adversity. Palo is resurgent and railing against the things that once weighed heavy on the mind. This is an anthem of strength, a courageous note on the power of self-worth that manages to remain playful whilst offering up a serious message. I exchange E-mails with Palo, now living in Berlin after growing up in Marbella, and find her in an optimistic mood.

I like the opportunities Berlin offers and of course the open mentality.“, she says. “It’s not better than Spain, it’s different… weather definitely is not a pro but summers here are wonderful and full of life. First thing I will do when the restrictions lift up is go for dinner with my girlfriend to this awesome zero waste restaurant called Frea, she gave it to me for my birthday and since then we haven’t been able to use it. Can’t wait to enjoy gastronomy to the fullest again.

The mail continues. “2021 has been a year of full realisation on how the world works, dismantling capitalism and the patriarch and understanding complex world problems. It has also been a year of self awareness. Memorias was an important step in my life, I am very content with the positive response especially to the message of the song.

Personal issues with my knee suddenly seem so remarkably insignificant – and rightly so. Have wonderful Sunday’s one and all. 

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. 

 

Poploader – Teresa

I knew Teresa at high school. I can’t pretend I knew her well. We chatted once or twice and found common ground in our mutual desire to get out of the town at the earliest possible opportunity. But I don’t think Teresa ever left. As we got older, I found a higher education route out and rarely returned but Teresa was too much of a drifter to focus on her study. When I asked about her, friends would tell me that they’d seen her crumpled in the corner at the town nightclub. I stopped asking about her and Teresa stopped going out. I’m not sure where she is now.

 

Poploader, a German indie guitar pop trio from Regensburg, are absolutely not to be confused with Toploader, the much derided indie rock band from Eastbourne. Poploader is a ‘kind of new project’ whereas Toploader, by common consensus, should have given up years ago. And Poploader have recently released a vital, energetic slice of mod-fuelled, off-kilter light-punk pop with their single, Teresa. To my knowledge, Toploader have never released anything near as interesting. 

Poploader are only a ‘kind of new project’ because Markus, Rainer and Thomas have known each other for years. They played in bands together back when Toploader were just starting out but then lost touch with each other. Reuniting twenty years later over a few beers and a love of Star Wars, they decide to begin again. On the evidence of their two singles released so far, this was a wise decision to make. 

I ask Markus who the ‘Teresa’ in their song is. “The name “Teresa” is representative of all the lonely souls who are increasingly lost in solitude in search of better days, familiar people and positive experiences.“, he tells me in response.

It sounds uncannily like the Teresa that I once knew at high school. But there’s a reason for this. I might have known people like Teresa back then but I didn’t actually know anybody called Teresa. This blog gives me the licence to wander between fact and fiction and I made her up. I apologise for my deceit. 

Poploader end their press releases with ‘May the pop be with you’. I like that. 

Roller Derby – Can’t See You

Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast might recall that we had a little guessing game going on just before Christmas. Back then I featured two parts of a trilogy (here) from Hamburg’s finest indie poppers, Roller Derby, and mentioned that the final reveal was on its way at the end of January. 

‘Can’t See You’ came out last week. Anybody who was hoping for every loose end to be tied up in a finale of absolute clarity will be sorely disappointed. I guess that life just doesn’t work that way. Instead, we get more insight into the lives of the two characters that we’ve become familiar with so far. 

The video for ‘Can’t See You’ finds our duo initially in playful mood. On a secluded beach and in deserted waters, these are happy times. Blindfolds are used to heighten the experience, to strengthen the sensation of joy. And yet the menace of future arguments still linger. The sea here is quite calm but we get the sense that there’s choppy water ahead for this friendship. Happiness cannot be permanent. And that’s alright if the good times on the way are cherished. 

Sonically, ‘Can’t See You’ is my favourite song of the trilogy. That’s not to say that there’s a weak link in the other two but this instalment takes the best bits of I Wish and Flying High and merges them together into a dreamy whole. I still get the influence of Camera Obscura coming through strong and a healthy slab of Alvvays. This is no bad thing. 

What’s next for Roller Derby is anybody’s guess. With this trio of tunes now proudly announced to the world, their profile is rightly rocketing. A glance at the comments already secured against the video for ‘Can’t See You’ sees a healthy South American following emerging. 

‘Take your time’, sings Philine in the opening line of ‘Can’t See You’. That’s also the way that Manu ends his E-mail note to me when I mention I’ll write a piece about the song. There is no rush for Roller Derby to do anything immediate. They’ve given us much to already enjoy. 

Breathe and relax. 

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? 

 

 

Roller Derby – I Wish & Flying High

Forming a band in 2020 can’t have been an easy task. It hasn’t stopped Hamburg’s Roller Derby from making quite an impact though. They’ve just released the second single of an intriguing trilogy and I thought I’d give Sonic Breakfast readers the heads up. 

You can write about the two songs but keep in mind that the first videos don’t match each other on the first sight. Only after the third video the coherent story will become clear. The third video will connect the first two videos. 🙂“, says Manuel, guitar player in the band when I ask him about the concept. I like the idea of a slow reveal, a bit of speculation and I’m all up for a guessing game about what is actually going on here. 

In the opening gambit, the video for ‘I Wish’, we find our protagonist at the breakfast table. As croissants are consumed, we slowly get a sense that there’s something cathartic going on. Spirits are lifting as  a relationship that is coming to an end is considered. While the inevitability of a break-up becomes more and more apparent, the appreciation for the other person becomes stronger: “I wish everything for you”, they sing as the chorus fades.

The music is ace. Roller Derby are a three piece and obviously students of wavey 80s sounds and modern indie pop. Philine Meyer has a vocal delivery reminiscent of some of Tracey-Anne Campbell’s fine moments in Camera Obscura. In fact, that’s the band that mostly springs to mind the most for me when considering comparisons. It’s quite a compliment. 

 

Philine appears in the second video released on Friday. In Flying High, she appears in the dreams of our protagonist from the first video and proceeds to get involved in an affectionate bout of mirroring activity. Their touching is touching; the dreamy music ambles along with a subtlety that leads to surprise when the chorus has wormed itself into your head.

The final part of the trilogy and the big reveal is out at the end of January. Until then, we can only speculate about what the link might be. There’s plenty of personal growth being hinted at here and a sense that good things do happen for those that seek not to stagnate. 

What do you think? The month will pass quickly as we ponder.

 

Honey Tower – Dandy

When I was a boy, I had a weekly subscription to the ‘Dandy’ comic; for me, this was an act of wilful rebellion. Whilst my friends obsessed about Dennis The Menace and the Beano, I strove to be different.

Back then, I was oblivious to the alternative meaning of ‘Dandy’. But, student days exploring Wilde, Baudelaire, Warhol and pantomime put me right. The definition is still hard to nail. Dandyism is a much-maligned way of life but it’s hard to see beyond this text from Camus in L’homme Revolte.

“The dandy can only play a part by setting himself up in opposition. He can only be sure of his own existence by finding it in the expression of others’ faces. Other people are his mirror. A mirror that quickly becomes clouded, it’s true, since human capacity for attention is limited. It must be ceaselessly stimulated, spurred on by provocation. The dandy, therefore, is always compelled to astonish. Singularity is his vocation, excess his way to perfection.”

Many of my friends might argue that the above describes me? It’s certain that the compulsion to astonish and to place myself in opposition has been prevalent since I read the ‘Dandy’ as a boy.

German Electro artist, Honey Tower, has just released an 8-track concept album referencing literary, philosophical and historic manifestations of distinct Dandyism. She draws influence and inspiration from stories of the past, playing with musical styles in an attempt to astonish the listener.

I’m particularly drawn to the story of tragic dandy, Franz Reichelt, who was so convinced of the strength of his parachute-onesie that he jumped in it from the Eiffel Tower in 1912. His equipment failed and Reichelt plummeted to the floor in full glare of friends and press. Some ridicule his stupidity (and he was without doubt foolish) but I’m more impressed by his excess, his misplaced confidence and his singularity.

Across the 8-tracks on Honey Tower’s album, there’s much going on. You’d dance to this at a club without giving the subject much thought and listen to this at home whilst fully considering the content. It’s intelligently dark dance music, erudite electro and techno that teaches. It’s a perfect way in to the weekend.

I’ve got my onesie and I’m off to Paris. Who’s coming?

 

 

Eurovision – Part one

I love the Eurovision Song Contest. I realise that such amour sets me apart from a bulk of my friends. But I can’t help myself. Bucks Fizz made my mind up on this and then Bardo pushed me one step further into what has been a lifelong appreciation of the quirks, the drama, the politics and the utter spectacle.

In recent years, I have hosted Eurovision food parties (complete with bags of Maltesers for the entry from Malta). I have insisted that birthday parties and camping trips have had a healthy gap in their schedules so that I can enjoy the contest. If this is hopeless and sad then I am guilty as charged. Diggi Loo Diggi Ley. 

Imagine my delighted squeal, when this week i was sent an advance copy of this year’s Eurovision double CD. This years contest is coming from Copenhagen. Across two semi finals and a final in May, 37 countries are taking part in the extravaganza. And over the next four days of this Easter break, I’m going to give you my views on their entries. Clearly, a considerable part of the Eurovision charm derives from the stage performances and I won’t be seeing this but each day I’ll post videos to two of the more extreme visions of Euro unity – just to whet appetites for next month. 

So, without further ado, “let’s get this show on the road… ”

 

1. Albania – Hersi – One Night’s Anger

A pleasant enough start to proceedings here. A folky start with a sweet female vocal from Hersi gives way to a faux rock climax. I can almost forgive the naff guitar solo plonked in the middle. ‘Keep calm and think twice‘, sings Hersi and I wonder if I might actually be a bit mad. 

 

2. Armenia – Aram – Not Alone

An excrutiatingly dull piano led ballad from the Armenians in which a little bird is encouraged not to cry. It almost goes into a dubstep rock thing towards the end. This isn’t a winner in my book – which probably means it stands a great chance.

 

3. Austria – Conchita Wurst – Rise Like A Phoenix

This is epic, but that doesn’t mean it’s any good. It’s straight out of a Sean Connery era James Bond soundtrack. I’m not sure if Conchita is male or female based upon this vocal performance. Shirley Bassey will no doubt be envious she wasn’t born in Vienna.

 

4. Azerbaijan – Dilara Kazimova – Start A Fire

Four tunes in and already I’m losing the will to live. What is it with all of these piano led ballads? Where’s the quirkiness and the bizarre? This tune would struggle to even make an album of Coldplay B sides. Again, this probably gives it a chance of winning.

 

5. Belgium – Axel Hirsoux – Mother

More piano. Axel’s ‘coming home‘ because he’s ‘broken hearted’ and now he’s singing a frankly eerie love song to his Mum. Think Norman Bates humming a tune from The Phantom Of The Opera in a shower and you probably get the picture. Hilariously creepy.

 

6. Belarus – Teo – Cheesecake

Here we go. This is more like it. From an initial ‘Yeah Baby‘ through to mention of Patrick Swayze, this grooves along to a chorus that states, ‘I’m trying to be your sweet cheesecake‘. Pure nonsense. It also has an annoying duck like Kazoo sound. Fun but appalling.

 

7. Switzerland – Sebalter – Hunter Of Stars

Whistling over the top of banjo’s. Upbeat fiddles and handclaps. What we have here is a sub-standard Mumford & Sons – and I think Mumford & Sons are shit. ‘I am the hunter, you are the prey. Tonight I’m going to eat you up‘, sings Sebalter and I’m almost won over by the songs cannibalistic urges.

 

8. Germany – Elaiza – Is It Right? 

A poppy oompah tune. It is very much not right. But, it’s a completely inoffensive three minutes and thus will probably do quite well. Enough said. 

 

9. Denmark – Basim – Cliche Love Song

Clearly, Denmark aren’t keen to host the Eurovision again next year. Basim proceeds to spew cliches in an upbeat pop number that references ‘Katy Perry‘ and ‘putting your hands up‘. They’ll be dancing in the aisles of the sanitorium to this one.

 

 And already, we’re a quarter of the way there. Tomorrow, I’ll give my comments on Ruth Lorenzo’s Spanish entry and tell all about my brief meeting with her in a Leicester car park. And I’ll also be looking at the UK entry from Leicestershire based, Molly. People from Leicestershire always do well in Eurovision (just ask old Engelbert) so I’m expecting great things. 

The two videos for today very much pick themselves. Be astounded by the sinister entry from Belgium and giggle at Belarus’ cheesy cake.