Tazmin – Nine More Lives

It would be very easy to be sniffy about Tazmin. Looking towards her pure pop pedestal, first impressions might suggest that there’s little more here than an X factor wannabee. One could quite easily dismiss her achievements to date as a typical career path of those who are building up to a future of reality TV shows followed by pantomime in Peterborough.

But to allow any sort of musical snobbimess to guide your judgment here will be missing the point. So, she’s been a child-star in China, turned out for Disney and won talent competitions that only really exist to make money for their organisers. From the outside looking in, her route through all of this might not be as tragic as some and her back-story less compelling.

Let’s not beat around the bush. Tazmin has talent and a work-ethic that’ll put many to shame. Take this tune of hers, Nine More Lives, a song about forgiveness and getting a second chance. Unlike many of your indie stars with a team of songwriters behind them, Tazmin wrote and semi self-produced this 80’s-influenced banger all on her own. And to do so, she openly notes that she drew influence from the songwriting guile of Nile Rodgers, studying the structures that he employs with such dynamic effect. She might not spell her name as TZMN but Tazmin has a broader range of skills to draw upon. 

Even if the pop-funk singalong focus of Nine More Lives doesn’t entirely float your boat you have to admit that the video, shot last year in Wadi Rum & Petra, Jordan, is a thing to lift you from the drudgery of your own miserable Winter experience. It’s cool to see sunshine and sights when your own horizons are limited. 

Tazmin doesn’t need to be using one of those nine lives to draw me in. But drop your own misconceptions,, give tunes (and artists) such as this a second chance and you might get a welcome surprise. 


Kipani – Enlighten Me

After yesterday’s rant (here), I promised Pop for today. Good to my word that’s what I bring you this morning. I first heard ‘Enlighten Me’ by Kipani  about a week ago and knew straight away that it was right up Sonic Breakfast’s street. 

It will come as no surprise to those who know me well but I’m not the best at taking advice. I’ve tried to get better in recent years at seeing things from other viewpoints and at not taking criticism personally but my modus operandi when I perceive I’m being attacked is to fight back. I don’t think I’m as hot-headed when a document  I’ve crafted upon for hours is obliterated with red pen as I once was but I am now mastering the art of deep breathing, taking a step back and returning to the initial advice after a few hours. It does help and sometimes (though rarely of course) I can see that others do have a point. 

I’ve always been this way. I was a regular visitor to the Head Teacher’s office at my infant school. The six-year old Sean wasn’t badly behaved in the traditional sense; he didn’t get in fights (much) or break the well-considered rules but often took issue with the classroom teachers who were trying to force him down routes that made no sense. And hand-writing practice where you form a weird shaped S to sit perfectly between two pencil lines you’ve just drawn to a page with a ruler still seems like a stupid way to gain a writing skill. I’m glad that Ms. Morgan, the School’s Head, was happy to debate such things with me when the classroom teachers sent the unruly me to her.

I’m reminded of nieces and nephews, of friends who worry that their children are too wilful. And I tell them not to be. Compliance sits uneasily with feistiness and having an opinion on things yet I think I value the latter qualities more.

It’s been a long preamble (for which I make no apology) but in Enlighten Me, Kipani is sarcastically responding to advice offered. I guess in the music industry there are added layers of complexity at play when dealing with advice that’s being given. Insecurities, jealousies and a well-drilled perspective of ‘watching your own back’ mean that advice is often not coming from the best place. It still must be a tangle to unravel.

“There is definitely a lot of personal experience that this song is heavily influenced by,”, says Tiffany (who is Kipani) when I briefly ask her about it in the build-up to this post. 

“When you do something like this you are always opening yourself up to criticism. The worst advice I have ever received was actually from a music critic. They suggested rather than focusing on my own writing as an artist, I should instead build my career by lending my voice to other projects. Essentially gaining notoriety from what I jokingly refer to as being the “chick on the hook”. I’m so glad I didn’t take that one to heart! The best advice I was ever given was to stand behind your craft no matter how many likes it gets (or doesn’t get) and never let the feedback get under your skin or alter your opinion of yourself as an artist. It might seem like a simple thing but that outlook can sometimes get lost in this very judgmental industry.”

Enlighten Me is a pop song with a message. It’s dispatched with radiant charm, tongue-in-cheek confidence, assured vocal and singalong credibility. The dance moves from the chairs of Kipani’s co-conspirators are a joy to behold in the video once the song kicks in with an absolute belter of a chorus. 

The weekend is here. Let’s all kickback with Kipani. The world is a better place with Tiffany not being the ‘chick on the hook’ – of that we can all agree. 



Marie Naffah – California

I’m thinking about heading home. It’s not that I particularly want to leave this oasis in the South East of Spain to head back to the South East of England but I know I’ll have to one day soon. When I left from Stansted in July I had no idea that I’d still be here now. I’m stretching my Summer wardrobe out to the extremes pretending it’s still warm enough to wear T-shirts and shorts. And it is, just about, even though the nights are on the turn. 

I’ll miss it when I go. I was out here two years ago at exactly this time of year and though I built up a wild bank of memories, I was ready to return to London and a day job when the time came. But now, because of this odd year that we’re all experiencing, London pulls me less – and I can do the day job from here. I like my own company and I’m no longer a novice at dealing with the solitude. 

I’m drawn to the new single, California, from Marie Naffah. It’s competent stuff, soulfully delivered. There are happy memories within as Marie recalls a recent road trip and the smiles it still evokes. The song, a gentle jazzy-pop meander, is a vehicle for Marie’s fine voice as we drive along the coast in search of hidden coves and new dreams.

Marie sums it up better than I can when she says that, “Quite simply, ‘California’ is a love letter to a place. It’s meant to capture the infatuation of being somewhere that is not your home. Where the mundane becomes marvellous and every detail is a souvenir.I wrote it after coming back to London – the verses are just lines lifted from my diary pages. It all happened – the smell of the dock, the drives to nowhere, the early sun rises, the coffee from big cups ’.

I have no doubt that I’ll write similar love letters to Alicante when the time comes to leave. But, for now, I’ll try to live in the moment more, to soak up the sun as it touches the terrace and realise just how lucky I am to be living here right now. 

ADMT, Archie Langley & Tom King – The Social – Tuesday September 3rd

My love for London life has taken a literal bashing over the past couple of weeks. I thought that I was immune to the danger. I walked in the clouds, hopping onto night buses from gig to gig without a care in the world. Such naive freedom came to a grinding bump over the August Bank Holiday weekend when I was mugged, punched, bruised, battered and scuffed-up in broad daylight. 

It’s fucked with my confidence and messed with my head. 

The police are on the case and CCTV has captured the robbery in full technicolor glory. As time passes, I’ve no doubt that my confidence will once again build. But for now I’m content to just do a couple of gigs a week as opposed to the typical five. My bedroom, the rocking chair and a new vintage record player will see more action. 

I did head out on Tuesday though. Invites from Propeller records are never to be sniffed at. The Norwegian artist label are branching out via Propeller UK into a new market. And tonight at The Social, there are three acoustic acts that have been linked as early signings.

I arrive half way through Tom King’s opening set but see enough to realise that here we have an exciting new soul-pop talent. Only 17, he’s got a bit to learn about stagecraft but that’ll come. He already has a voice that’s the spit of Boy George at his most soulful. Tom’s polite and relaxed; he introduces each tune as if he’s communicating to a jazz crowd – and perhaps that’s where he’s heading. The Robyn cover that he ends his set with takes on new life in these surrounds. One to watch. 


It seems that most of the crowd at the Social are here to see the second act to take to the stage. According to his PR brief, Archie Langley draws his influence from the likes of Coldplay and Ben Howard. As I don’t this could be a painful half hour. Archie is tall and anguished. You suspect that he’s not really experienced extreme and tumultuous times in his tender years but that doesn’t stop him mining the grief. “Still feel the pain when you say my name”, he says in one ballad before launching into Greyhound, a song about when a friend, in this room, was going through a hard time – it’s Archie’s best on the evidence of tonight. Archie is joined by Christian on keys and guitar; Archie has a rich voice and a songwriting team around him and lyrics about waking up next to somebody so you suspect he might ultimately be alright. 


ADMT headlines the night. From Doncaster, he’s assisted by Tom for this set. There’s a stoned reggae-pop feel to the tunes and they’re delivered with charm and good grace. Sometimes when ADMT gets worked up by the emotion of his songs, there’s something a little Frank Spencer about his delivery. In one tune, I swear the chorus is going to launch into an ‘oooh Betty’ before taking stock and realising that most of the crowd here won’t get the comparison. But I like ADMT; I warm to his tales about mental health issues, city living and being a young man today. Indeed, Man Now, the future single more than connects and you realise that here we have another talent who could cope with a lucky break.


Every night across this town, there’s musical talent oozing out of bars, pubs and clubs. Life can sometimes toss some shit your way but that shouldn’t stop us punters making the most of the music. 

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)

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)

Kylie Hughes – A Sonic Breakfast interview

I’ll return to the preview posts for Eurosonic later this week but now for a slight interlude. Just before Christmas, I was given the opportunity to find out a bit more about the up and coming pop sensation from the US, Kylie Hughes. 

 ‘Kylie – Is there a better name in pop?’, I pondered prior to listening to and watching recently produced videos for singles ‘Never Ever’ and ‘Take Me Anywhere’.

 ‘Perhaps not’, I concluded and sent a set of E-mail questions across pronto. Kylie quickly returned her answers and here they are for your viewing delight.

 (Click on page 2 to see the interview)


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. 






Femke Weidema – Stranger Than A Stranger

I sense that I’ve probably not embraced Twitter like a good blogger should. Sometimes I’ll get DM’s (I’m reliably told this is the abbreviation for a direct message) from artists who might want me to check them out for Sonic Breakfast. But, these artists often seem to struggle to capture my imagination within 140 characters. Indeed, I often just feel sullied by the brevity of the experience and rather suspect that the approach is the PR equivalent of a mass mailshot in which, if I’m very lucky, I’ll be a guaranteed winner.

This makes it a little bit surprising that I gave Femke Weidema the time of day. A couple of months back now, I got a DM from her twitter account that simply said, “Hi! Thanks for being awesome, would love to know what you think of my new video!” I didn’t let such praise swell my head. I didn’t think for a minute that Femke thought that I was any more (or less) awesome than the many other people she probably DM’d with the same request.

Despite this, I am, of course, particularly susceptible to blatantly inaccurate flattery and so I clicked on the link to the video. Typically with such approaches, I will regret doing so almost immediately. But, this was not the case with Femke. The link that Femke had sent was for her song, “Mixtape”. It was a perfect, perky, upbeat pop song. It brought a smile to my face to see the quirky Femke and her band dancing around the lounge, bedecked with studio equipment. I needed to find out more.

A quick internet search revealed that Femke was originally from The Netherlands. Periods of travel took her to America and she’s now holed up in Nashville with her fingers in all sorts of musical pies. She recently won a Latin Grammy for her work with Beto Cuevas on Transformation. (Beto Cuevas anyone?)

I watched further videos. ‘Leave The Lights On’ inhabits a similar space as ‘Mixtape’ – a credible pop song with Latin rhythmic influence. It might not change the world but it’ll make your day happier. I was now chuffed that Femke thought I was awesome because I was coming to the same conclusion about her.

It’s difficult to catch up with Femke’s output. Just a few days ago, she posted a new track on soundcloud, ‘Stranger than a stranger’. On hearing this less upbeat beauty, I knew I had to write a Sonic Breakfast post. You suspect this is a pretty autobiographical piece. It’s about being away from home and trying to fit in to your new surrounds whilst fighting loneliness. It’s pop with a Nashville country twang. And it’s brilliant.

Thank goodness for the Twitter. 



Atonomic – Are you up for it?

Some people might have taken extra holiday to extend this lovely Christmas and New Year period but, for many of us, the day job began again today. It won’t be long before the tinsel, turkey and mistletoe is nothing more than a fading memory as we grapple with those tasks that we didn’t want to do in 2014. At least the days are getting longer though!

I thought it a good idea to post a happy, positive tune today; a song so excessively upbeat that it might make those with a cynical, grumpy malaise explode with rage. Let me introduce you to two teachers and a painter from New York – Atonomic.

“Are you up for being everything that you want to be?” ask Andy, George and Chris, in the chorus to this three minute slice of slickly produced electro-pop. The listener is left in no doubt that this is about ditching the things that have been holding you back and striving towards better days.

The word ‘Atonomic’ is one that is made up by the band; a amalgam of ‘atomic’ and ‘anatomy’. Chris, Andy and George suggest that this new word that they’ve created could mean “the essence of creativity – something that exists in everyone.” A nice thought but it could equally be a word with no meaning, four syllables that fit and flow together neatly and don’t need to be explained.

The video for ‘Are You Up For It?’ makes me smile. The song glistens with such a shine that your cynicism gets erased. It’s the aural equivalent of a motivational speaker. And it might get us through this week at work.