THE OCEAN BENEATH ft. FRAN MINNEY- Single Review: “Skin”

When I last featured British electronic music project The Ocean Beneath on this blog in July 2019, it was to review his marvelous debut self-titled EP The Ocean Beneath (which you can read here.) The Ocean Beneath is the brain child of Leeds-based musician, composer and producer Matt Burnside. Influenced by bands such as Gunship, HVOB and Talk Talk, he combine 80’s synthpop elements with modern recording techniques, analogue synthesis and huge melodic grooves to create music that sounds retro, yet fresh and now.

He recently teamed up with Leeds-based singer-songwriter and electronic musician Fran Minney for their smoldering new collaborative single “Skin“, which drops today, September 29th. In their own words, the song “encapsulates the almost drunken touch-starved feeling a lot of us have experienced during lockdown these past few months with a beat to help you dance out that desperation.” Well, I must say that Matt and Fran do a superb job in capturing those desperate feelings of desire through their sensuous instrumentals, arrangement and vocals.

Photo by Matthew Baxter

After listening to “Skin” a few times, it struck me how it has a somewhat similar feel as Everything But The Girl’s 1995 hit song “Missing”, not only because of the way it transitions back and forth from a calm, moody vibe to a sensuous dance groove, but also that Fran’s sultry vocals remind me of Tracey Thorn’s.

The song opens with enchanting glittery synths, then Fran’s lush vocals enter as the music expands with darker, more ominous synths and a crisp percussive beat. At the one minute mark, a throbbing dance beat ensues along with Fran’s haunting, echoed vocals, and lasting around 15 seconds before calming down, only to briefly return at 1:50. This back and forth pattern continues through the rest of the track, building to an exhilarating crescendo in the final chorus before calming back down at the end. It all serves to create a strong sense of tension and unfulfilled desire that makes for a very powerful song.

The days and the months
The weight of your touch
I’ve waited so long
The dry thickened clay
Baked deep in the layers
I’m breaking away

I am lost in your skin
Feel the waves crash within
I’m off my feet
I’m floating
Your skin, your, your skin, skin
Your skin, your, your skin, skin

The sand and the blood
A coarse thickened flood
I waited so long
The foam and the blue
That brought me to you
The pull of a truth

I am lost in your skin
Feel the waves crash within
I’m off my feet
I’m floating

I die a little each time x3
I die a little
I die a little each time x3
Let me drown in this night

I am lost in your skin
Feel the waves crash within
I’m off my feet
I’m floating

Connect with The Ocean Beneath: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  SpotifyApple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

Connect with Fran Minney:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

DENSE – EP Review: “Abjection”

DENSE is a remarkably talented young psychedelic garage rock band from Leeds, England I’ve been following pretty much since their beginnings nearly four years ago. As their name suggests, they combine thick, fuzz-coated grooves with intricate, often explosive riffs and complex melodies to create music that’s exhilarating and intense. To best describe their distinctive sound, I’ve come up with the phrase ‘industrial surf-metal psychedelic garage rock’.  Making this incredible and innovative music are Charlie Fossick (Guitar/Vocals), Dylan Metcalf (Bass) and Sam Heffer (Drums), three intelligent guys who take their music seriously, yet are still fully in touch with their playful side.

A favorite of this blog, I’ve featured DENSE numerous times over the past three and a half years, most recently last December when I reviewed their dark and gritty single “Fever Dream” (you can read some of my previous reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post). Now the guys return with their debut EP Abjection, featuring four combustible little sticks of dynamite packed into 14 explosive minutes. The guys have gained a reputation for their electrifying live performances, and in the creation of the EP, they wanted to capture that energy and translate it into their songs. Abjection was written and recorded by DENSE, produced and mixed by Adam Bairstow, and mastered by James Grover.

It’s been gratifying to follow these guys on their musical journey, and as they’ve matured, so too has their sound, songwriting and performance, with each release sounding better and better. Abjection is their best work yet, with the band further experimenting with progressive rock elements. In a recent interview with British webzine DRAB, the band explained “The instrumentals are incidentally written to sort of be ‘progressive’ with changing moods and vibes through each song to almost tell their own story. To pair with this, Charlie usually writes taking influence from writers such as H.P. Lovecraft (i.e. cramming a horror story into a single song), and this led to us landing on the main theme of the EP being a small collection of songs that are all essentially short stories about different forms of suffering, hence the title of the EP. Looking back on that, it makes us come across a lot more bleak and depressing than we like to think we are as people!

Opening track “Calcium” really showcases how well the three guys play as a tight unit, their respective instruments in perfect sync as they deliver a thunderous wall of psychedelic sound. Starting with Dylan’s deep, pulse-pounding bass line that serves as the song’s rapidly beating heart, Charlie layers scorching reverb-soaked riffs that rip through the airwaves while Sam aggressively smashes his drum kit. I can’t make out all the lyrics Charlie’s singing, but he screams with a ferocity that’s downright chilling. A little more than halfway through the song, we hear what sounds like jets flying as Sam starts shattering his drums with crushing beats that echo off the walls. At 2:45, Charlie lets loose with a savage volley of raging distortion, while Dylan’s relentless throbbing bass can be both heard and felt. It’s an exhilarating ride from start to finish.

As it’s title suggests, “Dread” is a dark and ominous track, with a heavy start-stop beat driven by a menacing bass line. Two thirds into the song, Charlie blows us away with an explosion of screaming distortion while Sam smashes his drums to bits. Charlie wails the lyrics that speak of depression and hopelessness: “Dark shadows surround me. So patient. So worthless. So nothing.” In that DRAB interview, he commented on his vocals: “I think as far as my vocal tone on the EP goes, I was trying to be more confident in my voice and not hide too much behind walls of reverb and delay which is a lot more comfortable for me. I never think of myself as a ‘singer’ or anyone of any significant talent vocal/lyric-wise so I wasn’t very comfortable in having my words sound clear and at the forefront. This time around I’ve decided to be a bit more vulnerable with what I wrote and how I’m performing it.”

Electric Chair” has a rousing punk rock vibe, with gnarly reverb-soaked guitars that border on surf at times. As always, Dylan and Sam blast out a hard-driving rhythm with their intricate heavy bass line and pummeling drum beats.

The final track “Cleanse/Repair” is a reworking of their song “Irreversible Knot” that they’d previously recorded a few years ago. After changing a few lyrics and elements that make it a sharper and more polished-sounding track, they felt it needed a new name. The song begins with Dylan’s deeply-strummed bass, then we’re hit by a thunderous barrage of fuzzy distorted guitars and wildly crashing cymbals. Charlie’s echoed vocals go from sultry drones to savage wails, while he shreds his guitar nearly to bits. Halfway through the track, things calm down so that we hear only Dylan’s bass, then with a scream from Charlie, a cacophony of reverb-soaked distortion comes crashing back like a rogue wave. A second lull occurs three quarters of the way through, with a final return of tumultuous discordant musical mayhem closing out this monumental track.

All three members of DENSE are supremely talented guys who continue to blow me away with their incredible musicianship. Charlie’s guitar work is exceptional, and I think Dylan is one of the finest bassists around today. And Sam’s a literal beast on the drums. Abjection is a fantastic little EP that makes quite an impact in its 14 minute run time, and if you like music that’s complex, thrilling and dark, you will enjoy it as much as I do.

Connect with DENSE:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / Bandcamp / Google Play

THE COMMON VIEW – Single Review: “Cigarettes and Regrets”

The Common View Cigarettes & Regrets

It seems a lot of new music was released on June 26, and so far I’ve reviewed three singles that dropped that day. Now I’m writing about yet another one, the latest single “Cigarettes and Regrets” by British alt-rock band The Common View. The young Leeds-based band is a favorite of mine, as I’m impressed by both their outstanding music and unflinchingly outspoken advocacy for social justice. Their lively and melodic style of alternative rock is influenced by elements of indie pop-rock, post-punk revival and rockabilly. Originally formed in 2018 by three University of Leeds students with a shared love of music – Dom Robertson (guitar, vocals), Jose Ignacio Barrera (guitar) and Jacob Lindsay (vocals) – the band now consists of five members, including the three aforementioned guys plus Joe Sykes (bass) and Will McKay (drums).

I featured them three times in 2019, most recently last October when I reviewed their wonderful EP Man on the Moon. The prolific band subsequently dropped another EP If Not Now, When?, as well as three more singles, the latest of which is “Cigarettes and Regrets”. It’s the 16th song they’ve recorded in the less than two years they’ve been a band! And one of the things I love about them is that no two songs sound alike.

“Cigarettes and Regrets” is a rousing rock’n’roll gem with frantic punk overtones that make for a bouncy head-banger. The guys are highly skilled musicians, consistently delivering outstanding instrumentals on all of their songs, and this one’s no exception. I love Dom and Jose’s fast-paced jangly guitars that erupt into a glorious torrent of swirling riffs in the chorus. Joe and Will drive the lively rhythm forward with their throbbing bass line and snappy drumbeats, respectively.

I also like that The Common View has two fine vocalists, and I believe it’s Dom who sings lead vocals on this song. He croons the lyrics that speak of someone who’s cheated on his girlfriend with a one-night stand he picked up at a bar, and regretting his actions the next morning: “You wake up in the morning all full of regret. The taste of her lips like your last cigarette. You don’t know what to say to this girl beside you. Now it won’t be long til your girlfriend is back. And shortly thereafter, you’ll be forced to pack. It’s all coming down, and it’s been your fault.

The guys made a charming video that features a mix of stop action footage interspersed with humorous scenes of Jose packing up his instruments and himself into his guitar case, and Dom playing guitar and singing the song in various locations throughout the house. About the video, the band said “Our homemade video is a perfect reflection of how hard it is being a band during Lockdown.”

Follow The Common View on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / Google Play

NATH JACKSON – EP Review: “Dreamers & Deceivers”

Nath Jackson

June 5th was a popular day for new music releases, and I’ve been writing about a fair amount of it over the past few days. My latest entry is the new EP Dreamers & Deceivers by British singer-songwriter and guitarist Nath Jackson. I first learned about the talented Leeds-based artist last summer when I reviewed an EP by electronic music project The Ocean Beneath that he collaborated on. He co-wrote and sang the lyrics on two of the tracks on that EP, and I was really impressed with his beautiful vocals.

Nath has now released a collection of songs with his own debut EP. Once again, he collaborated with The Ocean Beneath, who produced the EP. Backing vocals were sung by his brother Aaron Jackson, with drums performed by Karl Rigby. The EP contains four tracks, the first of which, “Oncoming Storm“, was released as a single last December (you can read my review here). It’s a hauntingly beautiful number, highlighted by Nath’s gorgeous strummed acoustic guitar, melancholy but lovely piano keys, and gentle cymbals evoking waves crashing on the shore in advance of an oncoming storm. His smooth, clear vocals are urgent yet comforting as he sings to someone afraid of committing themselves to love or even to life, for fear of being hurt: “But it’s all too little too late. If life’s a game then you better play. From the upside to the down. The lost and the found. You better move soon before you hit the ground. And they’ve all got something to say. Waiting for those better days. From the love that you choose. There spreading out the news. Where do you go when you got nothing to lose? Nothing to lose.”

Setting Sun” was one of the songs he co-wrote and sang for The Ocean Beneath’s EP. Their version had a lush and mesmerizing synthwave approach in the style of Giorgio Moroder, whereas Nath’s version is more stripped-down, with stunning layered acoustic and electric guitars, drums and gentle orchestral synths. Both are wonderful and I love them equally. I love the sound of his vocals as sings of someone trying their damnedest to avoid committing to love: “Well you may be the last one standing. The devil’s on your tail but you keep on graspin’. Sail your dreams out to the sea. Pulling on the line and bring them home to me. The love light and watch it shine. And I won’t stop until you are mine. You don’t know what you’ve become. And you can’t hide behind the setting sun.”

The Beatles-esque “Blink of an Eye” starts off with just Nath’s piano keys and plaintive vocals, then the music gradually builds with added percussion, strings and guitar to become a beautiful, uplifting anthem. With his brother Aaron’s soaring chorus in the background, Nath entreats a loved one about what I’m guessing is an attempt to try and get their relationship back on the right track: “Maybe there ain’t time to look back. Trying to keep peace of mind. Staying on the right track. Well I guess no one’s to blame. Or in other words, stop sliding away, before it hurts. You keep on coming in and out of my head. Wanna say the things the things that are better left unsaid. We can dance under the moon. I’ll be your fool. Make up our own rules. Staring deep into space. And we’ll watch the world go by. Within the blink of an eye.

The title track “Dreamers & Deceivers” has an edgier folk-rock vibe, with a lively guitar-driven melody. I like the mix of acoustic and swirling electric guitars, and the organ adds a nice textural sound to the proceedings. The lyrics speak of both parties coming to the realization that their relationship is broken beyond repair, and it’s time to end things and move on: “Fingertips away but oceans apart. An exit to an overplayed part. As you stand, you dream and deceive your way to the end of the line. Hit the road always the first to say, it’s time now baby, bye, bye, bye. The air that you breathe, the money you need, it feels like you’re gonna explode. Hold on to one last look. It’s high time I gotta go, go, go, go go.”

Dreamers & Deceivers is a terrific little EP, and my only criticism is that I wish it had more than just four tracks. Nath is a fine songwriter, guitarist and vocalist, and I could listen to his pleasing music for hours. For now, I’ll just have to play his EP on repeat until he releases more music.

Follow Nath: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud/ Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / Google Play

LIAM SULLIVAN – Single Review: “When This is Over”

Liam Sullivan When This is Over

I’ve been featuring a lot of British artists on this blog lately, and singer-songwriter Liam Sullivan is now the seventh in a row. The engaging musician from Leeds reached out to me a few days ago about his latest single “When This is Over“. He’s a fine songwriter and guitarist, and has a lovely and vibrant singing voice that’s quite pleasing. His music can generally be classified as alternative rock with strong folk overtones, and I’ve been listening to and really enjoying his back catalog of songs, which I strongly urge my readers to check out on one of the music platforms listed at the end of this review.

Liam Sullivan3

Liam has been writing and performing music for well over a decade, and released his first solo EP Restless in June 2017, featuring four stunning tracks. More recently, he teamed up with a group of musicians to form his own back up band, and released an equally beautiful second EP The News I Needed in December 2019. On May 1st, he released “Wasted Days”, a poignant single about depression and feelings of uselessness, and now follows with “When This is Over”, which dropped on May 25th. Written and recorded during the COVID-19 quarantine, the song is a hopeful look ahead toward happier times.

Like “Wasted Days”, “When This is Over” has a gentler folk vibe, with just Liam’s beautifully-strummed acoustic guitar, accompanied by soft percussion. His vocals are heartfelt yet comforting as he laments of the many things we’ve been unable to do socially with others during this unprecedented quarantine, while remaining optimistic that we will do them all again one day. He also admonishes us to take a look at ourselves, and not place blame or remain divisive about something that many have suffered from. It’s a wonderful song.

Maybe someday when this is over
We can sit out in the sun
Maybe someday when this is over
We will embrace everyone
Maybe someday when this is all over
We will share a beer
Maybe someday when this is all over
We will see what happened here

What’s in your heart, and your mind?
This is not the time for choosing sides
What’s in your heart, your mind?

Maybe someday when this is over
I can shake your hand
Maybe someday when this is over
We will understand more
Maybe someday when this is over
We can start again
Maybe someday when this is all over
It’s over, it’s over

What’s in your heart, and your mind?
This is not the time for choosing sides
What’s in your heart, your mind?

Here’s a sweet acoustic performance of the song by Liam at home:

Follow Liam:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / SoundcloudApple Music / YouTube
Purchase:  Google Play / Bandcamp

New Song of the Week – AS SIRENS FALL: “Puppy Squad”

As Sirens Fall

As Sirens Fall is a charismatic and talented alt-rock band based in the northern English city of Leeds. Through their exciting, innovative and edgy style of what they call “aggressive pop”, provocative and entertaining videos, and theatrical live performances, including appearances at such festivals as Download, Bingley Music Live and Camden Rocks, they’ve grown quite a large base of die-hard fans over the past six years or so. The band consists of Mikey Lord (vocals), Will Truby (guitar), brothers Adam (guitar) and Jason Doveston (bass), and Bailey Roper (drums).

Beginning with their 2015 debut single “From Across the Waves”, As Sirens Fall have released a steady stream of singles and EPs, including The Hospital Party in 2016 and Where Lost Things Go in 2018. Their fantastically dark 2019 single “We Go Down Together” has been streamed over 108,000 times on Spotify. They dropped their latest single “Puppy Squad” on May 15, then followed with an electrifying video for the song on the 23rd that I love so much, I’ve chosen it as my New Song of the Week.

About “Puppy Squad”, Mikey states: “This song is about realising that I could stand up for who I am. I don’t have to fit in with people who make me feel small or unimportant. I don’t have to be a sidekick. Neither do you. Be you and turn it up loud til the very end. f ‘em up, puppies!” It’s quite honestly one of the most dramatic and exhilarating songs I’ve heard in a while, with in incendiary onslaught of wailing guitars, buzzsaw bass and eardrum-shattering percussion. Man, can these guys rock! Will and Adam shred their guitars nearly to bits, while Bailey smashes his drums like a wild beast, raising our adrenaline.

And speaking of beasts, Mikey’s vocals are downright feral as he screams and shrieks like a man possessed, raising hairs on the back of my neck. He’s sings at such a breakneck speed in spots that it’s hard to understand all the lyrics, but when he snarls “I’m tasting you before I come alive again” like a seductive vampire, it’s hard to not shudder just a little bit. In the song’s quieter moments, he croons in a purr that’s equal parts sexy and menacing when he sings: “And Lily looked at me from across the room and smiled. And I thought, ‘Ah honey, you’ll never understand what these creatures can do.’ And she looked at me deep, with those gorgeous baby blue eyes. And I laughed. And I said ‘Are you feeling alive, cutie pie?‘”

The soaring vocal harmonies in the chorus are really marvelous too. “Puppy Squad” is fantastic, and I love every single thing about it. Have a listen and like Mikey says, turn it up loud!

Follow As Sirens Fall:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudReverbnation
Purchase:  Band StoreGoogle PlayAmazon

New Song of the Week – NATH JACKSON: “Oncoming Storm”

Nath Jackson

Nath Jackson is a talented singer-songwriter from Leeds, England, who I learned about this past July when I reviewed an EP he collaborated on with electronic music project The Ocean Beneath. He wrote and sang the lyrics on two of the tracks on that EP, and I was really impressed with his captivating vocals. Nath is now writing and recording songs for his own debut EP Dreamers and Deceivers, due out in Spring 2020. He’s just released “Oncoming Storm“, which I’ve chosen as my new song of the week. It’s the first single from his forthcoming EP, along with an accompanying live recording of a second track “Best Laid Plans”.  The Ocean Beneath produced the tracks, with backing vocals sung by Nath’s brother Aaron and drums performed by Karl Rigby.

Nath Jackson2

“Oncoming Storm” is a beautiful and haunting track, starting off with sounds of approaching winds and Nath’s strummed acoustic guitar, accompanied by gentle cymbals that evoke waves crashing on the shore in advance of an oncoming storm. As the song progresses, his guitar strums become more urgent, while lovely but melancholy piano keys and measured percussion enter the mix to create a stirring backdrop for his warm, resonant vocals.

The lyrics seem to me to be about someone afraid of committing themselves to love or even to life, for that matter, fearing they’ll get hurt.

I know you wait
You waited for so long
You’ve been trying to run from the oncoming storm
So come along, won’t you come with me
I’ll get behind those eyes
I’ve got something that you better see

But it’s all too little too late
If life’s a game then you better play
From the upside to the down
The lost and the found
You better move soon before you hit the ground
And they’ve all got something to say
Waiting for those better days
From the love that you choose
The spreading out the news
Where do you go when you got nothing to lose?
Nothing to lose

On “Best Laid Plans”, it’s just Nath’s heavily-strummed acoustic guitar and strong, clear vocals, which are all that’s needed to make a highly satisfying and impactful folk-rock tune. The song speaks to not letting one’s life become trapped by too many rigid plans that can result in disappointment:  “And I find it hard to believe that the best laid plans fall apart at the seams. With just a roll of the dice, you can be free. Can’t wait til the moment’s gone. Dreamer keep dreamin’ on.

Though both quite different in sound and style, they’re both great tracks that showcase Nath’s skilled guitar work and beautiful vocals. I look forward to hearing all of Dreamers and Deceivers when it’s completed.

Connect with Nath:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream on  SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase on  BandcampGoogle Play

New Song of the Week – DENSE: “Fever Dream”

DENSE - FEVER DREAM (ARTWORK)

DENSE is a remarkably talented psychedelic garage rock band from Leeds, England, who combine thick, fuzz-soaked grooves with explosive riffs and intricate melodies to create music that’s incredibly intense and badass. As their name would imply, their sound has an impressive maturity, complexity and density, which I like to describe as ‘industrial surf-metal psychedelic rock’.  The trio consists of Charlie Fossick (Guitar/Vocals), Dylan Metcalf (Bass) and Sam Heffer (Drums).

A favorite of this blog, I’ve previously featured DENSE numerous times over the past two and a half years, most recently this past March when I reviewed their mind-blowing single “Displaced Face”  Now they’re back with another new single “Fever Dream“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. The single drops today, December 6th, via Leeds label Come Play With Me. DENSE were selected for this release by a panel of judges which included BBC Radio 1’s Phil Taggart, Adele Slater (agent to Liam Gallagher and Dream Wife), and Paul Riddlesworth from Dipped In Gold Recordings and Too Pure Singles Club.

About the track, Sam explains “’Fever Dream’ is based on a dream our singer Charlie had when he was really ill a couple years ago. In it, a withered man was left to die by a burning window before being dug up and forced to relive the tormenting experience all over again. The artwork relates to the introduction and later repetition of the agonising circumstance which the protagonist is in, left immobile in a chair being burnt by the scorching sun and unable to break the cycle of his suffering. The rocking chair left in the unused wasteland represents the isolation of this suffering against nature’s elements, visually encapsulating the track’s overall atmosphere.

The song immediately bursts forth with an intense barrage of gnarly guitars, throbbing bass and bombastic percussion. Charlie uses his guitar like a battering ram, pummeling the airwaves with relentless riffs of gritty, reverb-drenched distortion. At times, his guitar sounds like a buzz saw, while other times it mimics a machine gun. Dylan lays down a jaw-dropping bass line so heavy and deep I feel it in my core, while Sam smashes his drum kit like a man possessed. It all serves to create a massive, nightmarish wall of sound for Charlie’s demonic wails and screams. Wow, what a phenomenal track, and once again, DENSE blows our minds and ears with their brilliant musicianship.

“Fever Dream” is also being released on 7” vinyl, and is backed on the other side by fellow label mates Sea Leg’s single ‘Favourite Doll’. Limited signed copies of the vinyl can be ordered from http://cpwm.awesomedistro.com/.

DENSE will be launching “Fever Dream” at the following show tonight, 6 December, at Hyde Park Book Club.

DENSE show poster

Connect with DENSE:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunesBandcampGoogle Play

 

ISAAC GRINSDALE – EP Review: “Entertainment”

Isaac Grinsdale EP Art

I recently learned about British singer-songwriter Isaac Grinsdale when he reached out to me about his new EP Entertainment. I’m so glad he did, because it’s a terrific work. Inspired by such artists as Jimmy Eat World, Radiohead, Placebo, Frank Turner and American Football, the Leeds-based musician writes songs with thoughtful, compelling lyrics and unconventional, yet enthralling melodies. Isaac learned to play the guitar in his early teens, and got heavily into hard rock music, which led him to play in several rock and hardcore bands. Now a bit older and wiser, he’s transitioned into making more introspective, singer-songwriter acoustic-driven music, which has culminated in the release of his debut EP Entertainment.

About his new music direction, Isaac explains “I was really inspired by the ethos of the band Refused: That as musicians we should be playing at the edge of our ability, and pushing the boundaries of our music at all times. Otherwise, we’re not playing the kind of music we should be. It’s always stuck with me and frames how I write.”  Entertainment provides ample evidence that he was right to follow his instincts, as all four tracks are beautifully-crafted and deeply honest. A skilled multi-instrumentalist, Isaac played all the instruments himself, and even produced and mixed the recordings.

Isaac Grinsdale performing

The first track “The Blind Leading the Blind” was also one of the first songs Isaac wrote and recorded. It’s a lovely tune, with a peppy guitar-driven melody that belies the withering lyrics that speak to the divisive rhetoric and false promises of our political leaders. In an interview with the webzine imPRESSED, Isaac stated that the song “is basically about growing up and realising the world we live in is fucked up – completely removed from what I was taught as a child.” His intricate strummed and chiming guitar work is exquisite, and all the supporting instruments are perfectly balanced, providing a strong, albeit understated soundscape that allows the guitars and Isaac’s clear, earnest vocals to shine.

They’re words that I have heard since a child
I hear them now: ‘I promise change!’
I once had no reason to doubt
Oh how strange it all seems looking back

Because now…

The suits fail to hide the Facade
And their words fail in their intended charm
And it all sounds so bizarre
Like a lexicon based on Orwell’s Newspeak

They are words that I have heard since a child
I hear them now again
But here where the blind lead the blind
It will all fall on deaf ears, that’s all they’ll find

In the great deception, our language will strip us, and the world, of any sense of the plural. Now we’re left to speak in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’

Inspired by a book by author Guy Debord: The Society of the Spectacle, the title track “Entertainment” is about how music, or any other art form for that matter, can provide a small counterbalance or escape to the depressing political bullshit touched on in the first track. Isaac based the cover art for his EP on the book’s cover art of the book, which he explained “captures perfectly the idea that we tend to look at the world through a distorted lens/framework.” The song has a rather interesting and unconventional, but pleasing melody that to my ears has a late-90s vibe reminiscent of artists of that period like Duncan Sheik and the Goo Goo Dolls.

Nullius in Verba” is my favorite of the four tracks, not only because of it’s hauntingly beautiful melody and sublime instrumentation, but also the message of the song, which I strongly identify and agree with. The title is Latin for “not in any words” – essentially “take nobody’s word for it”, and is also the motto of the Royal Society, the British national academy of sciences. Isaac touched on the song’s meaning in his imPRESSED interview: “[It’s] about the importance of science, and rational thinking, slowly creating a more progressive and liberal culture from our draconian past. I had a very religious upbringing, but as a late teenager, I started to discover a lot more about how science, over time, has largely overturned our ideas from our past. One example that springs to mind is that human beings have evolved, rather than being created by a supreme being. For me, these are some of our greatest achievements.” Isaac urges us to view things through open eyes and an open mind: “Take a close look at all the terms we lay down. To look at this as objectively as we can. Just not in words, just not in opinion. No don’t you tell God what to do with his days.”

The first thing that came to my mind when hearing the fourth track “Speed of Film” was Joni Mitchell, arguably one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time. Isaac’s unusual chord progressions and guitar notes call to mind many of Mitchell’s songs, and with his distinctive guitar-tapping technique, the song has a marvelous, fascinating sound. He explained that the song “is about how our memories make us into the people we are today. Lyrically, it’s packed with anecdotes of my friends and family: The great (and not so great) experiences we’ve had together.”

Entertainment is a wonderful debut effort by this skilled musician, who I admire not only for his impressive musical talents, but also for his unflinching stances on social and political issues. An interesting little side thing I noticed about the EP is that the four tracks are arranged such that each one is progressively longer than the one before. The first is 2:30 minutes long, while the last is 4:00 minutes. Isaac just finished recording his second record, an eight-track album titled Paper Crowns that he hopes to release in Spring of 2020, and I really look forward to hearing it. He’s supported acoustic greats such as Jon Gomm, Nick Harper and Beth Orton, and is now gearing up for a major UK Tour in support of his EP.

Follow Isaac:  Website / Facebook / Twitter 
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play / iTunes

MMIV – Single Review: “Room for Requirement”

MMIV 2

MMIV is a fairly new band from Leeds, England, comprised of Max Rawdon (vocals, guitar), Charlie Adshead (bass) and Jasper Exley (drums). They formed in mid 2018 when Charlie noticed some lo-fi tracks that Max had posted on the University of Leeds Band Society online pages, and reached out to him. The two immediately hit it off, and started working together on acoustic demos and performing as a duo at open mics around Leeds. They tried out a few drummers, eventually settling on Jasper, who had previously been in the local band Turn Stones with Charlie, and is also currently keyboardist for funk band Everyday People. For their debut single, they recorded one of Max’s original songs “Room for Requirement“, which was released on October 17.

In an interview with the webzine Lippy, Max said that “Room for Requirement” is “indebted” to his life at the university. Written during his first semester of first year, the song speaks to his period of transition coming from a small rural area to the overwhelming big city. The song celebrates the life of a student, even those times when it can all seem bewildering. You feel torn between missing the comforting familiarity of home, and the excitement of experiencing new things and meeting new people in a completely different environment. It’s against this backdrop that the roller coaster highs and lows of a budding romance can feel so intense.

The song has a pleasing lo-fi quality, with a catchy melody that slowly builds to a jubilant tempo in the chorus. Max lays down some very fine guitar work, letting loose with a terrific solo in the bridge. Charlie’s prominent bass line is particularly good, giving the track a solid depth, which is accentuated by Jasper’s lively drumbeats. Max’s low-key vocals are really nice, and being a sucker for British accents, I like how his shines through on this track. It’s a great debut from MMIV, and I look forward to hearing more from this promising band.

I just hope there’s nothing left required
And I’ve admired you from afar
I might lean my head above the island
And try to find it by a star
Do you feel like a bursting into life
Alright

Cause I don’t need nothing now, maybe a home
I think I’m better off dancing alone
Up down, turned around
Up down, turned around

All of the lights are shining very brightly
My head feels like it’s tingling slightly
The touch of your hand is enough to make me think it might be love again

Connect with MMIV:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Google Play