Aidan & The Wild – Running

I’m an occasional runner. Many moons ago, I’d take it quite seriously and have a record of plodding around a variety of half-marathon courses. Work colleagues who know me now still look at me incredulously when I mention that I once even ran a full marathon. It’s not something that I could do now. 

In fact, back last year in the midst of the first lockdown, I decided to take it all up again. I went online and bought some kit with which I could run around the park that’s opposite. I had the ‘From Couch to 5k’ app on my phone and some whizzy songs designed to make the experience forgettable that I’d listen to if it got too much. I knew it would be tough but I had no idea it would be that tough. Gasping for air, unable to catch my breath for hours after each run, I simply couldn’t get through what was being asked of me from week one of the app. I’m not proud to say that I gave up. My new running shoes (that weren’t a great fit for my heavy stomp) sit relatively pristine in the hallway. I keep threatening myself that I ought to pick it up again now. I doubt I ever will.

Diederik van den Brandt is the man behind Aidan & The Wild. The musician from Eindhoven felt a similar desire to me during the initial lockdown. His running career appears to have become more of a routine though, albeit slight. “I actually overdid the running in the first two weeks and had to tone it down because of an ache in my joints.”, says Diederik when we exchange e mails. “Since then it’s been a very periodical thing!

But Diederik was able to write a pretty neat song about the experience. Warming us up with a gentle folk stroll, it’s not long before we’re striding along in time with the Americana influences. Diederik’s ‘disarmingly honest’ breathy vocal sits on top of it all to form a perfect work-out. “This song has become a description of that first run after six years of no real exercise, and the rapidly changing world that forced this event.“, says Diederik by way of summary.

Commentating about the state of the world is something that’s clearly important for Aidan & The Wild. Diederik has followed up on the release of ‘Running’ with a second single from the forthcoming album,’Revelation Never Came’. In ‘It’s Alright’, we find Diederik in cautionary mode, describing a world that is clearly anything but OK. It’s a track that has the same Americana wallow of ‘Running’ and yet one that further cements Aidan & The Wild as ones to keep an eye on. 

I’ll have to catch them first. Now, where are those trainers? 

 

Penny Roox – Mean

I bet that we’ve all seen enough in our lives to realise that the old adage, ‘Treat them mean, keep them keen’, has more than a semblance of truth. We’ve surely been left frustrated by friends who keep returning to partners who are clearly no good for them whilst an obvious match whimpers and wilts in the corner. Indeed, we might have even recognised such behaviour in ourselves with our predilection for the bad boy or the femme fatale.

Over the years, scientists with bigger brains than mine have tried (and sometimes failed) to explain why we love those that it’s harder to. And Robert Cialdini, author of ‘The Scarcity Principle’, probably hits the nail on head when suggesting that it works on the idea of ‘reactance’. We don’t like to be told no or be limited in any way. When we think we are going to miss out, be rejected, or be denied what we want, we react by wanting what we have been denied even more and trying even harder to get it.

Others have suggested that things are more valued by us if we’ve had to work harder to get them. And I can see some truth in that. But it does all seem ridiculously complicated when the nice boy or the girl next door waits patiently for their love to be reciprocated.

 

Penny Roox’s debut single, ‘Mean’, focuses on this phenomenon. The rising star from the Netherlands tells more in E-mail conversation. “Mean isn’t about someone in particular being mean to me.“, she says. “I wrote this song inspired by a conversation with one of my closest friends after a night out. It’s about always falling for the dickheads instead of the nice guys, about the thrill of rejection.

‘Mean’ is a fine showcase of Penny’s talent. It has a vintage feel; a dash of jazz in a pop serenade. It’s a slice of Springfield (Dusty) and a drizzle of Winehouse (Amy) that help to create the Roox whole. It’ll come as no surprise to regular readers of Sonic Breakfast that I love it. Perhaps if I was ambivalent about ‘Mean’, it would be more of a recommendation?

Penny lets me know about the state of play in the Netherlands. “The pandemic is still very real here,with everything still closed.“, she says. “I haven’t played a proper full band show for over a year now, but it gave me the peace of mind to finally release Mean and work on my own music. I made sure to write and record as much as possible so the plans of 2021 will be releasing a lot and hopefully start playing again.

Applying the logic from above, I couldn’t give a flying fuck about your Tuesday and I don’t care one jot if you like this song or not. 

Sacha Hoedemaker – Better Days

Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will know that lyrics are very much my bag; you won’t find many acts featured in these parts who use cliché, bland platitudes or well-trodden similes to describe their current emotional state. And, it’s arguably my love of lyrics that has tended to rule out instrumental and faux-classical pieces from the mix. That all changes today. 

When I first heard Sacha Hoedemaker’s ‘Better Days’, I was floored. The words can almost write themselves as the cinematic piece swoops and builds to its final flourishes. You can’t help but feel optimistic about the future and positive about the right-now as first the piano and then a section of strings takes us on a truly melodic dance. 

More than ever, we can reflect upon our lives and think of the better days of yet to come. It’s so important to connect to each other and stay positive. I hope this piece provides with the motivation you need to turn today into a better day.

That’s what Sacha offers in the press release that accompanies ‘Better Days’. The Music Director at an Improvisational Theater in Amsterdam called Boom Chicago, Sacha is well-versed in performing multiple times a week as an improvisational musician. That’s no doubt aided his punishing release schedule in 2021 so far that’s seen him add new music to his YouTube channel every couple of weeks. It’s all good but this piece, Better Days, is the one I choose to feature.

I ask Sacha what he’ll do when the better days do come. “The first thing I’ll do is travel most likely.“, he says. “I want to take a break and see something else than my studio. Get inspired by the outside world to write more and more music.

When the inevitable glut of movies get made dramatising all of our Covid-19 experiences, this piece of music could very well feature. Opening credits, end credits or that moment when the scientist has the Eureka moment on discovering the vaccine – all might be suitable points for the opening bars of ‘Better Days’ to chime. It’s no surprise that Sacha has a background rich in film soundtrack.

For now, close your eyes and imagine the days that are better for you. Let the music take you away to a happy place and give you temporary respite from the day-to-day. 

Jolene – Denied

If things were ‘normal’ right now, I might be packing up a small suitcase in anticipation of a flight to Amsterdam. And from there, I might be hopping north on a train to Groningen. I’d pull my things through the slush on the streets (the snow never quite settles) and check in at the cheapest room I’d been able to find. I’d then reacquaint myself with all that there is to see and do at Eurosonic Noorderslag. January festivals are the best.

Clearly, things aren’t ‘normal’ right now. That giddy freedom of drinking myself silly whilst rushing around Dutch cities and watching acts that I might love or hate whilst talking nonsense to nearby punters is not on the cards. I’m glad I have the memories. 

Jolene is still releasing music. Sonic Breakfast readers with particularly extensive memories might recall how we once met in Groningen (here). I would love to be back in that crowd right now. I treasured the card that Jolene gave me until my wallet got stolen about eighteen months later

“Wow that is a long time ago and how drunk was I that evening hahah”, says Jolene when I get back in touch with her to tell her how much I like her new track, Denied. It’s  a dark-pop classic. On the surface, it’s a tale of love gone wrong and yet for me, right now, it takes on a much greater significance. I’m being denied these things that I love, festivals in January, and it hurts. But probably not as much as Covid does. 

Eurosonic Noorderslag is sort of continuing this year. From this Wednesday, it’s programmed four free online stages where you and I can head to watch 15 minute sets from the up and coming across Europe. I might dip in and out. I’ve struggled to connect with online gigs in the way I might if I was there in person but it’s a noble substitute and there will no doubt be some fine contributions. (Sign up here). It’ll be worth watching if other lockdown alternatives are exhausted. 

I don’t know if Jolene will be watching any. She’s sounds kind of flat-out . “For 2021 at the moment I’m busy with another project I’ve just started. It’s another musical side of me. I’m going to record another rock album with influences of Quentin Tarantino Dead Weather Style :)”, she says. “Meanwhile I’m looking for a producer to record 3 new tracks for my Jolene electro project. So kinda busy with creating music.”

We’ll be through with this nightmare soon. 

 

 

Benedict – Finish The Wine

January is often the month of detox. After Christmas excess, we all make conscious decisions to stop eating as much cheese and go on mini health sprints that last at least until the second week of the month. Then, the dullness of our diets combined with the sheer, building pressure of work leads us to scream out for more beige food. We crack open the alcohol again – those days are just around the corner. 

I once lasted until January 23rd in detox mode. It’s a record of which I’m quite proud. Now, I don’t bother to make resolutions. 

In these detox days, one could be forgiven for thinking that Benedict’s ‘Finish The Wine’ is a statement urging us to throw caution to the wind. Life isn’t fun with lockdowns so we should at least empty the fridge and cupboards before making commitments to healthy living. Sadly, it’s anything but. 

“Finish The Wine is a Mrs Robinson 2020 (theme from The Graduate),” says Martijn Smits, the main man behind the Dutch Act, Benedict. “The song tells the story of a young man having dinner with a woman a little older than he is. The game is on, the dinner is nice, they totally fall for each other but neither of them wants to show their cards. He willingly believes all her lies to get her into bed.”

I ask Martijn if the story is true and he confirms its veracity which piques the interest of this curious bugger. 

The song has been out for some time. It’s one of the key tracks on Benedict’s fine album, ‘You Can Tell Me Nothing That I Should’, that saw the light of day in 2020. The album is well worth a listen (if your detox is getting you down) drawing on clear influence from the likes of The National and Tindersticks to create a cinematic gem. 

But Benedict has recently been releasing a set of videos recordings songs from the album in a live setting. And it’s the subtle variations in these recordings that truly demonstrate the power of the songs; the lyrics come more to the fore along with an intensity of vocal. The arrangements, simpler than on the record, seem practiced and perfected. 

‘Finish The Wine’ was the first of these videos to be released with a further live video for ‘When We Were Young’ getting an airing as a Christmas Day present. 

It’s better than a January diet. 

 

DIZZY PANDA – Turn Off The Light

I know that I’m not alone when I say that I miss gigs. The life I had just twelve months ago when I hopped onto London buses to travel across the City most evenings now seems like it was a lifetime ago. 

I was delighted to read about the trial being carried out in part by the organisers of Primavera Sound. The forward-thinking Catalonian festival put on a gig in Barcelona at the weekend for more than 500 people. They all had PCR tests and rapid-result checks before entering the Sala Apolo for an evening of entertainment. The ‘results’ of the experiment will be available from January. My fingers are crossed as I’m sure are other fans of gigs, festivals and mass-crowd gatherings.  (Read more here).

Gigs will become odder – of that there is no doubt. One act well placed to benefit from such a change would be LegPuppy. It might have been Halloween when I saw them at the Victoria last year (review here) but the theatrical, dystopian and bizarre world they inhabited now feels like an astute and prescient observation of the immediate future. 

I was delighted to see that DIZZY PANDA, a duo from the Netherlands, cited the influence of LegPuppy in their press release for recent single, Turn Off The Light. I asked Mike from the band about that and he confirmed that LegPuppy ‘really inspires us to develop in a certain direction.’

Even before such a declaration, Turn Off The Light’ already marks DIZZY PANDA as ones to watch. A psychedelic electro-triphop track, it ambles along like a wayward nursery rhyme. Managing to be both ridiculously cute and ever-so-slightly sinister, the chug of the keyboard line consistently chips away as the child-like vocal forms on top. 

The self-produced video, evidently a lockdown labour of love for DIZZY PANDA, provides a sketch for the sketchiness; it all comes together as a glorious whole. 

DIZZy PANDA are an act that I’ll look forward to seeing live one day. “We hope you could help us out as our family and friends don’t like what we do :-)”, say the band. I’m sure that the good readers of Sonic Breakfast will oblige. 

 

Jolene – 1,2,3

I can’t remember the name of the band who were about to take to the stage. Judging from the queue of people I’d had to make my way past at the entrance, they must have been an act with a lofty reputation. I was feeling hot, bothered and on the edge of heading back to my rented apartment in the centre of the city. It had been a heavy weekend. 

Two swaying women, probably more drunk than I was, came and stood in my general vicinity. One was very tall and the other less so. The shorter one said something to me in Dutch. At least I assumed it was in Dutch; this would have made sense as we were all in the Netherlands. 

“I’m sorry. I can’t understand. I’m English”, I apologised. This was my first conversation with Jolene.

(Click on page 2 for more of this story)

Gitta De Ridder – Altersonic – Groningen

My legs are aching. I was standing on them for much of yesterday, either watching a show from the next bright young things or wandering around Groningen hoping to catch those next bright young things before they’re on the radar of everybody else. 

 A fuller review of yesterday at Eurosonic will surface on eFestivals in time but for now I want to focus upon one small part of the day. 

 It was about 5PM and I was wandering back to my fine room in the centre of this City. I needed to get ready for the evening – snow was forecast for the night and I wanted to add a layer or two (and an extra pair of socks).

 

A lot of activity takes place around the Grote Markt here; there’s a big outdoor marquee (Eurosonic Air) which hosts bands for free, lots of pop-up food stalls if you want a snack or two and many of the Eurosonic venues. This also seems to be the space where much of ‘Altersonic’ happens. 

 

I’m guessing (my Dutch isn’t great) that Altersonic is one of the alternative spin-offs from the main Eurosonic. Eurosonic can only schedule a certain number of acts and others need opportunity to show off their talents as well. I like that Groningen has this festival within a festival even if it also means that my sense of overall confusion at the complexity of it all has heightened. 

 Anyway, I was walking past what can best be described as a pop-up radio station, a room with windows looking out onto the Grote Markt. A cheerful woman handed me a headset and said that I could listen live to what was being recorded within this room. I put the headphones on, watched and listened. Some sort of live lounge was in progress. An act who I didn’t recognise, just her and a guitar, was playing. “Sweet and solid folk music with a familiar twang”, I thought. 

(Click on page 2 to find out who it was)

 

ESNS 2017 – First Hate – Holiday

I’ll be heading to Groningen in the Netherlands in less than two weeks. Knowing this, I probably should have taken it a bit easier over Christmas.

Eurosonic Noorderslag has been a festival I’ve wanted to do for some time now. There’s something particularly attractive about the idea. Whilst others are finding ways to get fit and limit their expanding waistlines, I’ll be partying with festival bookers, up and coming bands and writers just like me in Holland. 

This is apparently where the festival industry goes to do their summer deals. I’ll be doing my utmost to unearth the best rumours for eFestivals. 

But, I’ll be honest. The scale of it all feels a tad overwhelming. 350 bands or so promoting their wares over a few days during which I’ll have to get my bearings in a strange city. It could be carnage if I had no plan. 

And I have one (of sorts).

(Click on page 2 to read that plan)

 

Dusty Stray – Blood Trail

I’m reminded that, back in the chaos of 2015, I was sent a video from Dusty Stray’s new record. I was also sent a link to that album, ‘A Tree Fell And Other Songs’, which was being released early in November.

I exchanged some E-mails with Jonathan Brown, the incredible talent behind Dusty Stray and confirmed that I was definitely going to write about ‘Blood Trail’ on Sonic Breakfast. But then, the stuff of life got in the way and I stopped updating my blog.

I say to all who’ll listen that it was a perfectly treatable skin cancer without really stopping to think about the effect it had on my head in those Autumn months. As the trees became bare so did my cupboards.

Born in Taiwan, Jonathan Brown grew up in Texas as a son of a preacher man. Raised on songs about death and resurrection, he began writing his own songs taking influence from early American folk music. Travel, dead end relationships and forming freak folk bands led him to a place where he’s now based in the Netherlands. Jonathan curated the recent SnowApple video that I featured in my Sonic Breakfast Top Ten of 2015.

A Tree Fell And Other Songs, the fourth full-length Dusty Stray release, was written in a small, lone trailer in the flatlands of Holland alongside the dead end of a river. The twelve original songs illustrating “dead end” relationships flow into one another in a natural, organic way. It’s a fine listen if you want to indulge in a bit of melancholy. 

‘Blood Trail’ has a haunting, memorable lilt. It’s almost got the feel of a murder ballad save for the fact that nobody dies. I asked Jonathan what the song was about: – 

“It’s all about a somewhat traumatic childhood memory of when I was about 7 or 8 playing in the dirt/mud along our driveway — making some kind of “castle” or something — and some neighborhood kid came along and completely destroyed it. I was so angry that I picked up a nearby brick and threw it at him hitting him in the head and causing a lot of bleeding and screaming. He turned out to be ok — didn’t even need stitches — but the image of that little blonde-haired kid suddenly blood red-haired sitting on our kitchen counter while my mom was helping him is still with me. And I think that was my first and last violent act…”

I love this. Have a happy weekend SB readers.