Alpenglow – Solitude

alpenglow

ˈalpənɡləʊ/

noun

the rosy light of the setting or rising sun seen on high mountains.

“the red granite flickered warmly in the evening alpenglow”

So, here I am on a train journey to London. Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will be pleased to know that I’ve got my headphones back. This is making this generally grey day more pleasant as I’m able to listen to tunes in solitude.

There’s no chance of seeing an ‘Alpenglow’ today – there’s no sign of the sun – but none of this matters because I can bask in the warmth of the new track from Alpenglow, the band.

“If I wanted my solitude, I’d move to the city. If I wanted to be with you, I’d move to the woods for a little while“, sings Graeme Daubert in the opening lines of this gem. There’s some truth in this. Later today, as I often do when visiting London, I’ll sit by myself in a coffee shop or pub and derive great amusement from watching the world bustle by. I’ll probably chat with nobody (my headphones will act as a barrier). I’ll collate my thoughts, centre myself, stand/sit firm and find happiness in my solitude. 

Alpenglow recently moved from Vermont to New York and that contrast between rural and urban really jumps out at you in this tune. It’s a mountain folk tune played with all sorts of modern electronica; Daubert’s voice is angelic, pure as the driven snow (whatever that means) but with an edge of urban grit. This is the sound of Vermont descending upon New York, of the Peak District becoming Manchester.

The smog will pollute the innocence of Alpenglow. But for now let’s revel in the rosy light. 

 

 

 There’s also a video here, a live recording of another track from Alpenglow’s forthcoming album just in case you still doubt their essence. 

 

 

 

Karel Ullner – Closer To Your Body

I was sitting in a packed train carriage catching up on Sonic Breakfast things after a busy day in the day job.

‘Finland’s answer to Justin Timberlake‘, said the introduction to the press E-mail that I’d  received about Karel Ullner. I confess I didn’t actually know that JT was asking questions in Finland but I kept reading anyway. Despite my general appreciation of cheesy pop, I couldn’t help thinking that this wasn’t going to float my boat. 

 The release continued:-

 “Karel’s upcoming single ‘Closer To My Body’ is a melodic portrayal of a sound that has recently been described as “fully finished, well produced and ready for urban dance clubs” by New Yorker newspaper Scarsdale Inquirer. The lyrics describe a special moment between two people in a club drifting into their own bubble of consciousness.”

 This was getting better. I can’t say I’ve ever experienced a special bubble of consciousness moment myself but it sounded most pleasant. Bless Karel for being able to give me some insight here.

 I scrolled down to a picture of Karel. The man sat next to me got a glimpse of my I-pad screen and started to awkwardly shuffle. 

 

Another insight into Karel’s life was revealed:- 

 “Having grown up in an artistic environment and being able to meet people such as Sir Paul McCartney during a session at the studio have contributed to Karel’s enthusiasm and determination.”

 I wondered if Karel and Sir Paul had experienced a bubble of consciousness moment. 

 “The songwriter has used music as a way of overcoming personal struggles and feelings of exclusion after having had to deal with bullying during his school days. Through music, he has found true friends and a more positive meaning in life.”

 Whoops – I’m sorry Karel – I’ve not been able to help myself. 

 There’s little else to do now that your appetites are whetted to an unhealthy level of frenzy than to show you this somewhat steamy video. It’s probably not necessary to point out that although Karel is getting quite excited that the love of his life is closer to his body, she chooses to remain in a separate location throughout, miles apart in their bubble. 

 Boy, I’m such a bully. The song actually grows on you in contagious pop fashion. 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack and Amy – Plus Size Fairy

For many of us, the start of a New Year gives us the chance to dream. 

We might have piled on the weight through over-indulgence after the Christmas festivities but new diet regimes are going to see us slimmer by Springtime. We resolve to change habits, jobs, behaviours and Facebook statuses because adjustment is good. As days get longer and optimism grows, we live in our very own fairy tale following after fantasy wrapped up as ambition. 

Just before Christmas, I was sent news of an EP called ‘Winter’ that’s due to be the first release of New York duo, Jack and Amy. Released in mid January, it’s right up my street. Cinematic, melodic and dreamy with lush floaty vocals over soft electronics and keyboard flurries, it’s an EP that serves as a fabulous statement of intent. 

Apparently, it’s been a few years in the making. Jack and Amy aren’t actually called ‘Jack and Amy’ but, perhaps confusingly for some, Dan and Joyce. Separately, they make music ranging from contemporary chamber jazz to traditional Korean sanjo. I’ve yet to check any of that out!

A video for my favourite track from the Winter EP, Plus Size Fairy, has been in circulation for a little while now. It’s a charming piece of music and the animation within the video just heightens the sense of wonder. The Cinderella of this particular fairy tale is optimistically waiting for a new beginning, a happy ending with that charming prince who’s still snorting the pixie dust. 

“Is it because I’m a plus size fairy? Is it because I’m stuck in fantasy? Wings wet with reality I keep twirling … waiting for our tale to begin“, sings Amy/Joyce. 

Happy New Year to all Sonic Breakfast readers. Let’s resolve to make 2016 a great one. 

 

 

The Sonic Breakfast Top Ten 2015 – Ten To Six

People have been asking me if I’m going to be doing a ‘Sonic Breakfast Top 10’ again this year after the success of last years chart. Here’s the answer!! Yesssss…

It’s been something of a stop/start year for SB if I’m honest. Increased ‘day job’ responsibilities, another busy festival season, new outlets for my writing (hello Leicester Mercury) and a bit of that personal shenanigan stuff have all contributed to a slightly more sporadic approach to blog posting. I resolve to do better in 2016! Nevertheless, I’ve still featured some fab music that I’m keen to revisit.

 

10. Of The Valley – Ride Alone

 What better place to begin the countdown of the ten Sonic Breakfast posts that have given me the most pleasure in 2015 than with this track from Copenhagen based ‘Of The Valley’? Brian DellaValle continues to plug away with his music. The city of Hamburg appears to have taken Brian close to its bosom in the latter part of this year. He’s played the Reeperbahn festival there and a gig in the last couple of weeks. Let’s hope for more recorded material as strong as Ride Alone and possibly a couple of gigs here in the UK in 2016?

 

9. Correatown – Longshot

 This was one of my first posts after the lengthy blog break for another Summer of festivals. Since I reviewed the single ‘Longshot’, Correatown have released the superb album ‘Embrace The Fuzzy Unknown’. It’s well worth a listen should you get the chance.

 Angela Correa’s words here feel suitably uplifting for an End of Year post  – “Sometimes the life we have is just as beautiful, if not more so than the life we imagined because it’s ours and it’s real. Sometimes it’s even better because we’ve lived through all the days and moments to get there.”

 Other videos have now been released to accompany the album. Here’s one for a favourite track of mine – True North.

 

8. VanWyck – An Interview

 I still listen to the ‘listening post’ on Tom Robinson’s ‘Fresh On The Net’ website. It’s a fine way to be introduced to new acts such as VanWyck. This is one of my favourite interview based posts from 2015, largely because of the richness of the answers given by VanWyck. There’s much of interest to read within.

 Amsterdam based VanWyck has been undertaking a pretty mammoth task of late. Since September, she’s been publishing a weekly digest about her ventures into songwriting and recording. Christine’s plan is to do this for a whole year. To date, there’s been twelve songs released – some are lo-fi, scratchy phone recordings but with a talent such as VanWyck this just adds to the ambience. 

 Most songs are accompanied with videos – footage from other moments of cinematic history that add to the track. ‘Tanned Legs’, the song that first pulled me into VanWyck’s world now swims in vintage mermaid murkiness.

 

7. Snowapple – Leicester Musician – Wednesday February 11th

 Let’s stay in Amsterdam a while with the fabulous SnowApple. If there was a blog post this year that sums up the ever so slightly chaotic experience that my life has been then this one is it. 

 I’ve still to see SnowApple live. They played a short tour here in the UK in the summer which again I managed to miss. Judging by the photos I’ve seen from incredibly successful tours in Mexico, future dates here might be more of a challenge to get tickets for. 

 

On that summer tour, they recorded this song ‘Old Fashioned Morphine’ which has recently been released with a vintage underwater video..What is it about vintage underwater videos coming out of Amsterdam? Interestingly, the video was put together by Jonathan Brown (aka Dusty Stray). We’ve been E-mailing this year and I’ll be featuring Jonathan’s music on Sonic Breakfast in 2016. 


6. Wolf Colony – Unmasked

 Delighted to see that 2015 has been a pretty spectacular year for one of my favourite discoveries from New York, Wolf Colony. The album ‘Unmasked’ wasn’t far from my car CD player throughout the months of Spring. It’s joyous, electronic pop with an edge and I adored sharing it with others who fell in love with it as the days got longer and summer approached.

 I didn’t feature any of the follow-up videos beyond the beautiful ‘falling in love’ moments of ‘The One’. I probably should have done so. Watch ‘Holy’ to take you to a place of sand, sun and strange, floaty symbolism. It helps that it’s full of beautiful people as well. 

Still anonymous, Wolf Colony ended the year with a fab three track EP ‘Oceans’. When asked to comment on the new EP he replied, ““True love is eternal. It changes form, but never fades away. Ocean is about the five different stages of a relationship:

1.Passion 2.Love 3.Hurt  4.Resentment  5.Forgiveness”

 

2015 – a year that’s had all of that emotion in bucketloads. I’ll be back soon with the rundown from five through to one. I bet you can hardly wait. 

 

 

 

Ionie – Give Me Your Eyes

“It conveys the plight that many young lovers must face– the endlessly complicated, dichotomous relationship between the private, verses the public. In private, a bond with someone can seem indestructible and carry through with careless, ineffable glee. Yet, in public, the same person can suddenly transform into someone impenetrable, reclusive, and distant.”

 So comments Erica Rose, the producer/director of this new video that surfaced in my inbox recently. Ionie’s ‘Give Me Your Eyes’ is truly lit up by the story that runs throughout this video. And regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will know that I’m partial to a bit of theatrical narrative.

New York based Ionie released her self-titled debut album back in April. On initial investigation, it’s a pretty mixed bag. That might be a deliberate ploy to show off her varied talents or it might be that Ionie has yet to absolutely find the style she’s most comfortable with. ‘Give Me Your Eyes’ is undoubtedly a stand-out track.

Modern dating is tough right? It certainly seems to be the case here. You put all of your eggs into one basket-case and then they turn out to be fecklessly unreliable. They sweep you off your feet by whispering sweet nothings into your ear whilst, at the same time, whispering ‘it’s nothing, sweet’ into somebody elses ear. 

What better way to convey the highs and lies of that experience than through a dose of jazz-tinged soul? This is a tune calling out for your commitment. 

Give it a shot. Give it your eyes. I don’t think it’ll disappoint.  

 

Nozart – Orphanage

Every now and again, I have a recurring dream. I am, once again, in the company of an ex-girlfriend. We’ve not met since we were both teenagers but, in the dream at least, the years have been kind. Our conversation and laughter flows in much the same way as it did when we were dating. We’re older now and the arguments that were always a feature of our real time together have diminished in this dreamland.

Sometimes, we kiss. Mostly, my alarm wakes me just as we’re making plans to see each other again. “Let’s not leave it so long until we next catch up”, she says with that infectious giggle she seems to never have lost.

As ridiculous as it might seem, this recurring dream derails me. I’ve got no desire to find out what has happened in the life of this ex. But, I find myself overwhelmed with a sense of loss; for a short while, I’m an awkward teenager again. Life, with all of its uncertainties and anxieties, is spanning out in front of me. I’m clinging to a child-like romantic ideal. I’m refusing to allow myself to grow up.

This long preamble does have a purpose. Last week, Nozart sent me the video to his new song, ‘Orphanage’. I’m a sucker for delightfully romantic, sentimental gush, especially when it’s all wrapped up in a story-based song. This ticks all of those boxes. The beautifully animated video just adds to the sense of ‘awww’.

Nozart is from New York. He’s currently playing piano on tour with a chap we have featured regularly on Sonic Breakfast, Elliot Moss. I hope that they’re having fun. ‘Orphanage’ is taken from a yet-to-be released album that Nozart has been working on for the past two years.

He says about ‘Orphanage’ that “this is a story about being in love before you know how. It’s about losing that love too soon and being afraid to grow up, because you don’t want to grow up without it. It’s about holding on even when the person you loved might not be the same person at all.”

For me, it evokes much the same feeling as that recurring dream.

 

Go Rogue Records

One of the common grumbles I hear from people who want to get on in the music industry is that it’s far too difficult. This is made difficult by (delete as appropriate) promoters, venues, tribute bands, TV talent shows, PR companies, journalists and record labels (the list could be longer) who all play their part in denying opportunities that should be offered with more fairness. ‘Fairness’ can mean many different things to the many different people who grumble but, when boiled down, it often means that they want the opportunity themselves.

It’s not an argument I’m entirely unsympathetic about. I’m sure we’ve all heard about bands who’ve been ripped off by rogues; acts that might have been the next ‘Coldplay’ (please, no!!) or ‘U2’ (God forbid!!) if it wasn’t for the fact that their drummer didn’t look the part. I’d love to see a world where talent trumps all but we’re a way from that now.

I’m drawn to the productive collective of ‘Go Rogue’ Records. Here, we have a group of people, based out of New York, who have decided to do something. ‘Go Rogue’ has been running for less than a year and yet is already preparing to release their fourth album, in early February. ‘Devil’s Road’ is conceived as a collection of gritty, folk-infused rock with an apocalyptic vibe.

Lilah from the label told me that, “as always, the album is a collective labor by a number of artists on our roster. As a nascent independent label in these dark days of the record industry, we’re doing our best to come up with new models for success, and for now that means releasing collaborative albums in which the creative outpouring, time commitment, and promotion is manageably shared amongst our artists. This way there isn’t too much pressure on any one emerging artist—our artists happily share responsibilities.”

Each album that’s been released to date by ‘Go Rogue’ has had a loose, generic theme. They can all be streamed, for free, on the website which can be found here. Regular readers of ‘Sonic Breakfast’ will surely not be surprised that it’s ‘Young Blood’, a collection of youthful electro-pop, that I’m returning to most.

There’s a dozen or so artists that seem to constitute ‘Go Rogue’ at the moment. I was first drawn towards A.F. Paxton, a Glaswegian living in New York. It’s hard not to fall for the electro-pop charms of his tune, ‘Our Way’. This acts as our invite into some of the other ‘Go Rogue’ acts; Goldishack’s analog collaborations with soulful vocalists harking back to a time when Motown ruled the roost; the out of the box thinking of Tyler Ewing from Nashville’s Pinewood Social Club that makes them so difficult to pigeonhole.

Indeed, this is one of the many charms of ‘Go Rogue’. As new releases are issued, we see the artists heading in new directions and revealing new angles to their sounds. It feels like this ‘collaborative album’ model is providing the freedom to experiment and develop fairly.

I am in no way saying that ‘Go Rogue’ exists to raise awareness for the plight of unfortunate drummers but it does seem to be adding some collective fairness back into this world that we all love… And, for that I salute them…