WAMI – Life Is Good

Yesterday was a pretty perfect day. Spring was definitely in the air. We went for a weekend walk around Holme Fen, the lowest point in the UK, and were able to breathe in the good, clean air. The peaty mud beneath gave us a bouncy carpet to walk on. At one point, we happened upon a bird hide on the edge of a large lake and paused for a few minutes simply to watch the geese, the ducks and all manner of ornithological dream perform their ballet in front of us. Some swooped down from their flight to make a splash in the water whilst others chirped from the comfort of their small island. Life is good. 

It has to be worth reminding ourselves of that from time to time. On those low days when nothing seems to be going our way it’s helpful to take a step back and a few deep breaths. It’s not about those things that we don’t have or can’t do. When compared to 90% of the people on this planet our lot is likely better. Our irritations are mostly minor; our basic needs fulfilled.

WAMI are an Italian duo creating splendid electronic material. Lorenzo and Federico used to be resident DJs in a club but left their booths a couple of years ago to focus on their jazzy, R&B compositions. Their recent track, ‘Life Is Good’ is an uplifting belter if ever I’ve heard one. The vocalist on this track, Julia Shuren, sent WAMI her rough idea (vocal and piano chords) which was enough to enthuse over. Much remote working followed with Julia re-recording her vocals in her apartment in New York (she studies there) and in her hometown in Canada. 

“”Life is Good” was written with the intentions of lifting people up through this difficult time that the entire world has been going through.”, say WAMI in their press release. “The past year has been bombarded with bad news, and sometimes we need a reminder that it’s going to be alright. We just need to start spreading good vibrations with simple gestures and we hope this song can help lift the spirits of people that need it the most.

From our ensuing E-mail conversation, it’s clear that WAMI are pretty driven in their pursuits.  “Our biggest plan for this year is to create an Italian independent label, in which we can push and promote our artists as harder as we can.“, they say. “Such a big goal, but we’re absolutely motivated! 🙂

They add to this. “And for our musical project WAMI, we have several tracks almost ready to be released, but we have to brainstorm a little just to understand which path choose and which track deserves more that the other. Not a simple job, but essential if we want to keep our identity and to promote to our audience the “right” song.

We got back to the car after our walk at Holme Fen and it wouldn’t go into reverse. We had to call Green Flag to help recover us. This was a blow, an inconvenience that we could do without. And yet, it’s still worth reminding ourselves that ‘Life Is Good’. 

 

Hanssøn – No Drama Llama

Back last year when the initial lockdowns hit, we took to weekend walking. Too busy during the working week to muster much of a stroll, we looked forward to the weekend when we’d get out to explore local footpaths and tracks. Places previously taken for granted came alive on our short hikes; we discovered small fishing lakes on our doorstep, geological wonders and an abundance of nature. Our horizons might have been shrinking but our interests were growing; there was beauty to behold in a single blade of grass.

One walk sticks in my mind. A seemingly endless meander along a towpath gave way to a clearing just over a slight hump. A white cottage in the distance shimmered in the early evening sunlight. And fenced off in the well-treed garden of the cottage which ran parallel to our path was a field of llamas – or were they alpacas? This was not what we expected to see on a Saturday stroll in Lincolnshire. It is not a common sight. 

On returning home, I spent an hour or two, with the net as my resource, trying to understand the differences between llamas and alpacas. I wanted to find out more about both animals. What makes them tick and why did I stumble upon them in that Lincolnshire field? I never did find out why they were there. I suspect we spied alpacas rather than llamas given the physiological differences between the two. Previously, I’d thought that llamas were only good for spitting and wool. I was wrong on that front. 

 

Hanssøn likes llamas. She tells me about her experience filming the video for ‘No Drama Llama’ when we exchange E-mails in advance of this post. 

Making the video was quite surreal.”, she says. “When I wrote the track, my producer was like “Dude you’ve GOTTA shoot a video with some llamas” and logistically and with the pandemic, it seemed like such a far out idea that I couldn’t even conceptualise it, but once I started digging around, a lot of things opened up – I’m based in NYC and I found a lot of the llama farms were at least 1.5 – 3 hours away. And lots of the farms were mainly for alpacas rather than llamas even though I was google searching “llama farm”. But eventually I made contact with Bev at Second Wind Llamas and when we spoke on the phone I pitched her this idea, sent through the lyrics and the song, and we agreed on it. She mentioned that the lyrics in the song “Thank you to my healers” caught her attention because she finds her Llamas to be quite affectionate and healing for certain visitors, and on the day of the shoot, shared with me stories and experiences of this.”

I love this idea that llamas have healing powers. It stands to reason really. Horses are increasingly used in equine therapy sessions so why not llamas (and alpacas)? A friend with a field is desperate to get himself an alpaca so convinced is he of their general health benefits. He could be onto something.

No Drama Llama, a synth pop gem about trying to find some peace whilst feeling alien(ated), is just one track from Hanssøn’s ‘Phases’ project. With a work ethic to envy, Hanssøn has been releasing new music every two weeks at full moon and new moon. She admits that having the focus has kept her going. “My family are all in Australia and I haven’t seen them since 2019...”, she mentions. “So having something to ground me in the USA such as music has been really a life saver, and the first thing I’ll be doing (when this is all over) is getting back to Australia to see my family.

I’m going to spend some of this Sunday morning listening to the other tracks that Hanssøn has released as part of the ‘Phases’ project. I suspect there’s much joy within. Have a Llama-great Sunday.

Slut Magic – Trauma Queen

My days of computer gaming are long gone. My best friend here in Spain, James, spends a fair bit of his lockdown time existing in alternative worlds as he attempts to complete his latest adventure. Sometimes, he’ll tell me about the mission he’s on and, whilst I try not to be rude, I can feel my eyes glaze over and my brain go to mush as I find out about the most recent ‘boss’ encounter. Fortunately, James has lots of other interests and we’re now more likely to chat about those.

But I did play computer games in younger days. It’s a mark of how much things have progressed that my first console (a cheap version of an Atari) basically allowed me to play what has become a retro bat and ball classic. In later years, I progressed to a ZX Spectrum and then when Ollie, my son, was growing up, I dabbled a bit in Wii’s and early PlayStation’s in an attempt to seem like a cool Dad. I failed badly.

I do however know what a sidescrolling game is. And so when Slut Magic’s press release for ‘Trauma Queen’ popped into my mail box with talk of their love of ‘hitting “Continue” even when it’s time to sleep’, I wasn’t completely disconnected. Besides, who could avoid being enticed by the character of the Trauma Queen—”the summonable patron saint of vengeance against rapists, abusers, and cowards of all kinds” – as they get invoked to “beat the boss and move on to the next level. Forever.

 

Trauma Queen is the opening track and title of Slut Magic’s album that was released towards the end of 2020. It’s worth giving the Brooklyn based band a full listen should you get the chance; their political punk credentials come to the fore in a glorious scuzzy swathe of radical, off-kilter, anger (and humour).But, definitely do make time for Trauma Queen this morning. It has a tone of dark cabaret, like something that Amanda Palmer would be involved in. 

I ask Slut Magic what plans they have for 2021 and get the best of responses back in return. “Sooooooo, we’re gonna be careful with this question.”, they say. “On November 6, 2019, Patch Philly asked us what our plans were for 2020. We literally said, “We think we’re one of the four bands of the apocalypse. So maybe the apocalypse is in 2020?”  With that in mind: Our plans for 2021 are to be the finale music of capitalism, and the prelude to a just, anti-racist, eco-centric social order where the constructs of gender, the existence of prisons, and the need for nuclear weapons are as passé as Smash Mouth. Also we’re gonna do some 90s covers. We have a sludgy cover of Spice Girls’ “Say You’ll Be There” coming on Valentine’s weekend, perfect for brooding with your cat, or worshipping your vibrator.

I’ve had a sneak-preview listen to that cover version and I’m happy to confirm that it works (when perhaps it shouldn’t). 

And I’ll continue to listen whilst elsewhere around the World the computer games keep on scrolling. 

 

ALMA – Fall

A month or so ago now, I received a mail from ALMA. Super-polite and humble, Alba, Mel and Lillie asked if I might consider writing about their debut single, Fall. 

They attached a live video and I watched, transfixed, as the song built with a haunting pleasantness. “Try writing about this and not using the word ethereal”, I said to myself as I hunted down my Cocteau Twins Thesaurus. 

Repeated listens in and the melodies and harmonies continue to wash over me, the provider of all sorts of honest chil. It’s absolutely one of those songs that allows you to wallow and to bathe in your memories from years gone by. 

“Fall is a nostalgic elegy to childhood and growing up. We joke that it was inspired by a quarter-life crisis, but it has become much more of an appreciation of memory and our roots.”,say ALMA by way of explanation. 

A name jumps out at me when I look at the credits and I realise that the super-talented Elliot Moss is the mixing engineer for this recording. I assume that this is the same Elliot who so encouraged me to keep writing Sonic Breakfast posts when this site was in its infancy. There’s hardly likely to be two such talents with the same name in New York? For those visitors to Sonic Breakfast unfamiliar with the story of Elliot’s generosity, it can be read about here

Highspeeds, his debut album, still gets a frequent spin in these quarters. I confess though that, to my shame, I’ve not delved into Elliot’s later releases with such diligence. Perhaps now will be the time to do so.

But not before I listen again to Fall from ALMA and give more thought to Sonic Breakfast’s childhood; the tentative Spring steps giving way to a spirited Summer and a recent sense of maturing after migration.

 

Alicante and Dylan Seeger’s new album

I wrote this three weeks ago. I guess it should be published…

2020 has been a fuzzy as fuck year. I hate not seeing friends, being contracted into ever decreasing circles, getting my hugs from distant zoom calls and my cuddles from texts. 

I’ve still been writing. But my notes have been private. I’ve not entirely missed gigs but I’ve actively avoided the internet versions. I can’t help feeling short-changed. 

Last night I went out into Alicante. I’m lucky to be in Spain. The Dutch and the Germans marauded carefree, no quarantine on these youths. Single-handedly, they kept alive the clubs of the old town whilst we nodded and predicted second spikes in Amsterdam and Berlin before the Summer is done. 

It was nice to see people dance and smile though. We observed and kept our distance. 

Mate, Seany has been listening to music in 2020 – probably not enough but I’ve been digging flamboyant soul and deadpan pop. 

And there are some albums that keep giving much. Even though they’re not soul or pop. 

Dylan Seeger is an under the radar genius. Prescient, perfect and largely unnoticed. I don’t know why he bothers. It’s certainly not for the attention his releases attract.

Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will know that his 2015 album, Claye, was an absolute favourite in these parts. He’s only gone and done it again with Metropolitan Hospital Center, his latest, released to a silent fanfare earlier this year. 

How was Dylan to know that this opus, his work for the last four years, would be released on the eve of a pandemic, the worst the globe has faced for at least a 100 years? 

It’s themes are scarily 2020 – hospital, loss, grief, death and a nod to the staff and people met on the way. It’s  a record for me that says how much isolation can play with your dreams and your mental health. 

It’s not a happy listen – but it’s perversely uplifting. And brilliant. Put it on one evening when bed beckons but you want some maudlin meditation. 

Erin Pellnat – Neighborhood Boys

I receive an E-mail from Erin Pellnat. It catches my eye one morning when I’m on the train heading into Birmingham.

Hello Sean“, says Erin.  “I write to introduce you to “Neighborhood Boys,”  a song about falling in love with a guy on a bus — but he gets off at his stop and leaves me with the neighborhood boys on the bus.” 

There’s a beautiful simplicity about Erin’s approach. I’m not averse to deep, philosophical songs about the meaning of life but sometimes such tunes can feel complicated, aloof and emotion-less. Sometimes, you want a simple premise that’ll tug at your heartstrings a bit; you want a three minute segment from your favourite tearjerker of a film; you want glorious romance albeit of an unrequited kind.

I take a listen to Erin’s track. There’s something about her voice that gets me. There’s no over-the-top warbles or ridiculous squeezing of pitch. It’s all very considered and mannered. Yet it’s in that very understated vocal that the emotion (of which there’s plenty) comes through. In many ways, for me at least, it invokes a similar sort of feel to that I get when I listen to the late 1960’s work of Bobbie Gentry or Dusty Springfield. And that’s high praise. 

I notice when I check back through my E-mails that Erin had sent me one previously to highlight the release of her earlier EP, Dream In Color. Rudely, I’d not even replied to that. I’m glad that Erin didn’t get the hump with me for that and kept sending me mails. It pays to be persistent. 

I wonder if ultimately persistence will pay off for Erin with the guy on the bus? I guess we’ll have to watch this space!

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Eaves – Paper Mache (Single AF)

Sunday morning and I need to get Groningen out of my system. I notice that Miss Eaves released a new video whilst I was away and take a look. I’m glad I did.

 

Interest around Miss Eaves grew whilst I wasn’t blogging much last year but I made sure I watched the string of entertaining, message-laden videos she released. Thunder Thighs, a glorious early single from her album, Feminasty, went viral. It’s a wonderful celebration of the beauty that can and should be found in bodies of all shapes and sizes. 

Miss Eaves is the feminist sound storm of Brooklyn based multimedia artist Shanthony Exum. Her fierce femcee electro-pop-rap-dance-explosions are pretty stunning and Sonic Breakfast readers could do well to check out that 2017 album. 

‘Paper Mache (Single AF)’ is her new track from an as-yet unreleased EP and it’s all about the joys of being single. It’s a bolshy, strident song about healthy self-esteem, about the happiness that can be gained from staying in on a Friday night with only your arts and crafts for company. It’s a middle finger to establishment thinking that suggests happiness is best served when in a couple. There’s nothing wrong in that but neither should people feel like pariahs for doing it their own way.

And Miss Eaves is making a career out of doing it exactly her own way.

 
 

Courtney Farren – Hard To Tell

I’m recreating your presence, by wearing socks to bed.”

You kind of know that you’re onto a winner when a song knocks you sideways with an opening line full of mournful poetry such as that.

Even more so when that song, Hard To Tell, is sung in the teary, polite and brutally honest manner that Courtney Farren applies to her work. There’s a heartbreaking simple beauty about this song; you, as a caring voyeur are given a tender insight into the distraught distraction of poor Courtney. 

(Click on page 2 to hear the song and to see what Courtney says about it)

Oliver Sean – New York

I’m not as knowledgeable as many about the Leicester music scene – but it is the city I live in and, as such, you do tend to hear about the locally based acts with an international profile. It’s really hard to get my head around the fact that somebody played on VH1 and with MTV awards might be ‘anonymously’ living in our midst.

So, it was something of a surprise when the new music of Oliver Sean was thrust under my nose via musicsubmit, a U.S. based promotions company. They often send me tunes to listen to and then link me up directly with the artists I like. Oliver Sean is a chap from Oadby, Leicestershire.

And he has a name that would lodge in my head. It’s not something I’d easily forget. My nineteen year old son is called Oliver and his middle name is Sean. Coincidence can account for so much but this seemed beyond that. I wondered if somebody was winding me up.

(Click on page 2 to find out if it is a wind-up)

Nikki Pope – A preview

I’m back from Eurosonic in Groningen. Now the hard work begins as I piece together the jigsaw of events in an attempt to make a coherent review for eFestivals. Suffice to say, I’ll be singing the praises of a fantastic event.

 Forgive me if the blog goes quiet for a few days whilst I’m working on that. The day job remains busy and I don’t have a massive amount of spare time. I did want to publish this piece first though.

 Jono has been a friend for a number of years. He’s a man to know in Leicester with his finger in many pies. I don’t know much about studios but friends with more expertise than I’ve got tell me that his studio (Yellowbean) is one of the best-equipped and supportive across the Midlands. Jono sings in a Madness tribute band, Gladness; he has the trust and ear of Dean Jackson, the excellent BBC Introducing DJ for the East Midlands (who I once blogged about here). Every year, he organises a fab skiing trip for mates (I went one year and, in truth, struggled on the slopes). Jono’s an avid Leicester City FC fan and a very friendly and sociable guy. In truth, he’s one of the good people on this planet and I ought to drink beer with him more than I do.

 So, when a stranger gets in touch with you saying that they’re a friend of Jono’s and he’s sent them your way, you sit up and listen.

(To find out more about that stranger click on page 2)