Gig Review: Headland + Isla Stout @ The Priory

by Josh Adams (@jxshadams)

Celebrating the launch of their debut single When Stars Collide, Headland joined forces with solo artist Isla Stout to sell out The Priory based solely on the strength of their unique mix of celtic rock and modern pop sensibilities. A last-minute venue change from Broadcast did not seem to slow down the Glaswegian seven-piece at their very first gig – hopefully, the start of many more to come. Before even a note was struck or sang, it was worth noting the diversity in age of the crowd, from teenagers to the elderly, which only served to highlight the broad appeal of Headland‘s music.

The opening act came in the form of the aforementioned Isla Stout. Whilst her folk covers of pop hits (from classics to contemporary numbers such as Ring of Fire and Skinny Love) were charming, if not spellbinding, the real magic lay in her own original content that she performed that evening that seemed to have everyone in the room silent in awe. If that is the direction Stout continues to head in, we will be hearing her name a lot more in Scotland throughout the year.

The recent nationwide revival in folk music, rescued from the clutches of pensioner pub bands across the country, has been a somewhat surprising yet welcome return in Scotland’s music scene. It’s as if a young batch of new local heroes have started taking notes from their American contemporaries and realised that fusing traditional instrumentation with modern pop hooks and songwriting can lead to great success in the charts. Now numerous groups, such as Skerryvore, are seeing triumphs in their careers, and up steps Headland to become the latest band to follow suit.

What makes Kieran Ferguson et al. stand out from the crowd is the dynamic interplay between the male voices and the female voices of the seven-piece, allowing for greater melodic variation in terms of the harmonies, and this was especially true on cuts such as When Stars Collide and Float On The Ocean. Another highlight was the tasteful guitar playing of Cameron Wilson, who added colourful flourishes and appropriate solos to most of Headland’s tunes with a slick, rock tone.  If anything could have been better from a performative or technical standpoint, it was that the rhythm section could have been punchier to emphasise the strong grooves that hold the group together, and the song structures could have been toyed with more experimentally to allow for extended solos in the folk tradition.

Alas, I’m nitpicking. By the time the band rolled out a few fun covers of Folsom Prison Blues and Wagon Wheel that elicited mass singalongs across the venue, before an encore of a reprise of When Stars Collide, you would have been forgiven for forgetting that this was Headland‘s first-ever concert together with all seven members. Exceptionally tight and acing what they do well, the future seems bright for the group based all on this lone concert.

 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Semper Femina by Laura Marling

By Callum Thornhill (@Cal_Thornhill)

Laura Marling has returned with sixth album Semper Femina. Latin for ‘always a woman,’ Marling’s delicacy and charismatic charm has always been evident in her previous work, but this is a record holding something more. An ensemble of tales cut down into three to five-minute tracks sounds like the norm for songwriting, but Marling has crafted an album that exceeds the norm.

Throughout the creation process of this record, Marling has made her directorial debut with the video for Soothing, produced the record with Blake Mills and released it on her own label More Alarming Records.

Following on from Marling’s podcast series, Reversal of the Muse, where she questioned feminine creativity alongside Haim and Dolly Parton to name just two, Semper Femina carries on this theme across nine abstract, non-definitive tracks. It is an accumulation of what has stood before put together in a record that will be looked back on in several years as one of the most important records of the decade.

The questioning is portrayed in Don’t Pass Me By with the lyrics “Can you love me if I put up a fight” and “Is it something you make a habit of, that not something I need from love right now” give a journey of empowerment and no longer needing a (assumed) man to carry on with life.

Next Time, however, juxtaposes Don’t Pass Me By. Reversing the themes and mellowly singing the optimistic lyrics of “I’ll do better next time” at the beginning. It is a reminiscent track where by the end she has seemingly accepted defeat via a pleading mid-section. The signature plucky guitar and echoey arrangements are core to Semper Femina and create a backbone to the record – not that anything else would be expected from the Hampshire singer-songwriter.

There are moments of rawness throughout; notably in Wild Once where Marling’s authentic, bold accent comes through and you are briefly invited into her mind and memories. Dropping it again now and then throughout, it offers different perspectives and different characters in the songs.

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The moody ballad of Nothing, Not Really closes Semper Femina. Quick, snappy relatable lyrics pour from Marling’s alongside the emphatic instrumentation, which creates a mesmerising sound leaves the nine track record begging to be extended, but in some ways this gives the sense of mystery that was always going to come from Laura Marling’s story telling methods.

The sound of footsteps shuffling and a microphone being placed down at the end of the record shows that the job is done. Marling has completed a record of mystery, passion and allure. It is now time for her to leave and for you to now take it and perceive in however you want.

 8.5/10


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ALBUM REVIEW: Jake Bellissimo – Piece Of Ivy

Artists creating content under monikers isn’t anything new but seeing a musician go by the name of “gay angel” is eye catching to say the least. While most artificial names musicians will use are only skin deep, Jake Bellissimo’s use of the title is a perfect indication of the music he provides: wonderfully blissful and, if we’re going by the dictionary definition of being happy, very gay.

The eponymously titled track Piece Of Ivy was released at the tail end of last month and perfectly set the scene for what listeners can expect on this six track LP. With the delicate playing of piano alongside the plucking of his acoustic guitar, there’s a definite feeling of acceptance, almost like the epilogue to the depression ridden nature of Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago.

The rest of this release seems like it will carry the same positivity as the opener and thankfully spices things up as it goes on. Take for instance the small 44 second interlude Memento Mori which, as the title would suggest, feels very reflective and, alongside the use of an accordion near the end of the track as well as some romance tinged lyrics, feels like what you’d expect to hear on a gondola ride alongside your beloved sweetheart.

However, the latter half of Piece Of Ivy takes a dark turn just after the purely instrumental track The Burning Sky which feels theatre-esque. Grand in scale, boasting bodacious orchestral arrangements, the track feels utterly shocking due to what has came before. (A Considerable Amount Of) “Ow” makes the comparison between heartbreak and physical pain quite well, talking of broken legs alongside the instability that inevitably follows a romance gone sour.

This is where Bellissimo doesn’t so much shine but radiate storytelling beauty. Swan Song definitely captures the bitterness of an ex lover, going through his mundane start to the day while dwelling on the past. The isolated guitar strumming feels like a perfect match and the previous resemblance to Bon Iver comes out on full force.

“Does the light reflect off your beating eyes” are one of the many lines that hit home a wave of empathy, undisputedly evoking emotion due to the sincere and simple beauty Bellissimo’s love displays. Piece Of Ivy deserves a listen due to its ambition, excellent execution and, just like the old flame in question, the power it has over you.

8/10

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Review: Chloe Marie @ King Tuts – 22nd August 2015

It seems fitting that this would be the review I do today. It’s been two years since I’ve started my blog and although it’s moved from different platform, it’s remained the same: a scrawny scottish guy talking about what interests him. Music has always been a large chunk of what I write about and although I love to review AAA albums from artist I love, my main aim has always been to draw attention to the artists who I think deserve it the most. It’s a joy to help anyone that you think is talented, regardless if it’s 1000 folk or 10 who decide to listen to you.

Less about me, more about the gal herself: Chloe Marie, a singer songwriter hailing from a small village in Ayrshire with a huge heart. She has had a wonderful year so far with her debut track Without You In The Frame was released in March and greeted with a warm reception, followed up with some gigs all around Ayrshire. Having written her own songs and performing for many years at various talent shows, it’s no surprise that Chloe is such a natural when she’s on stage. This was obvious to all who were lucky enough to see her at King Tuts this weekend, a venue that has welcomed many acts from Ayrshire such as Echo Valley and Biffy Clyro who have all experienced success in bucketloads, something that Chloe should prepare herself for after she exceeded all expectations.

She opened her set with the track Runway, a fitting track as it tells of the singers’ ambitions and how she’s got her sights set on success. “You see I’m done with your negative ways, how they held me tight, i’m making my way”  she sings fiercely over the aggressive strum of the guitar, resulting in a track so upbeat and folk-esque that it would have Mumford and Sons green with envy.

This was swiftly followed up with Baby I Will Follow You and despite the fact the subject matter in the song was a bit more sombre, regarding an intense relationship at a young age, it still managed to remain in the heads of everyone who was there long after the gig was over thanks to her knack of creating catchy hooks on her tracks. Lyrics such as “We are innocent little ships, innocent as a life just begun”  make it hard to believe that it was crafted very earlier in Chloe’s career at the age of 17 due to how simple yet fitting it is.

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Picture taken by Martin Bone

The gig was finished with Without You In The Frame and Changing respectively , two of Chloe’s best known tracks that highlight her impressive vocals and show the great potential she has. With veteran musician Scott Nicol taking on the role as manager for her, his experience will no doubt work well with what Chloe has learned so far from her gigs. There were smiles all round at the King Tuts on Saturday and no doubt there’ll be more to come in this singer’s future.

Liam Menzies

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Blink and you’ll miss it! (7/06/2015)

A bit of context before I start this blog post. I’ve been writing music reviews and other articles for nearly 2 years now. Something I started off as just a passtime has become a big part of my life and now that I’m studying journalism in Glasgow, I’ve managed to improve my articles dramatically (if you’re able to find my review on Mumford from 2013 then avoid it at all costs). I’ve spent a huge chunk of time reviewing big bands and now that I’ve managed to get some attention from my blog, I thought it would be silly not to shed some light on the new and upcoming artists that I think are bound for success. Although my word will not magically transform them into the next Biffy or Bowie, if even one person gives these artists some attention then I’ll have did my bit. Moving on, here’s the first installment in a series of posts about the bands and individuals who deserve your attention:

Amy Louise Rogers
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The rise of acoustic guitar wielding teens has been nothing short of amazing, being inspired by a lot of musicians who had the same origins as them such as some of Scotland’s finest like Paolo Nutini. However with Amy, her exposure to older music has had an impact on her music even if it’s not been easy to detect so far. “The music my dad showed me had a big effect on me such as Fleetwood Mac and Big Country” she said when we were talking about her music which includes her upcoming debut album Her Imagination where she’ll be showing the creativity that her influencers had in bucketloads. ” It’s gonna feature a whole lot of instruments that I’ve never used in past works hidden in there is some violin , electric guitar , banjo , and even a kazoo line!”. Anyone who’s interested in hearing more from her will be happy to know her new single Problems (She Wants To Be A Marine Biologist)  is released on the 20th of June so there’s not much longer to go to experience some pop folk goodness.
Spotify: Amy Louise Rogers |         Youtube       |      Facebook

Sweet White
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Just one listen to this 5 piece indie band’s latest single How You Feel and you’ll know why Sweet White are worth your attention. “Catchy as funk, sharp indie rock numbers guided by pop sensibilities” it says on the Peterhead boy’s site and they’re not wrong with the tracks reeking of psychedelic sounds. The interesting thing about the band is how important every member is to the works. Whereas many bands have one or two members whose abilities help to shoot the band into stardom, Sweet White have 5. With Kyle Drysdale and Ruairidh Sandison on guitar alongside James Butcher on Bass, the band are able to craft some insanely addictive riffs and melodies, Flesh ‘N’ Blood on their 2013 Eponymously titled EP being vaguely reminiscent to the likes of Foals in various ways with a hint of Peace’s Bloodshake for good measure. Not only that but frontman Jake Cordiner is gifted with a flexible yet powerful voice that manages to impress just as much in live performances as it does recorded, possessing the same scottish tang in his singing voice that people associate with the likes of Simon Neil and Scott Hutchison. Last but certainly not least, Shaun Wilson’s drum playing is essential to the band’s funky rhythm that’ll have you coming back time and time again and from their performance I saw back in April, he and his bandmates look natural on stage, looking relaxed and never faltering. If you live near Glasgow and have no plans for tonight, or even if you do have some, get over to Nice N Sleazy tonight for 8PM to witness the guys in action alongside Codist for £2, you won’t regret it.

Site | Soundcloud | Spotify: Sweet White | Facebook | Twitter

Cheapside

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Starting off life as Floorboards before changing to Cheapside, this Glasgow 4 piece pop punk band are sort of a rarity at the moment. When I was talking to drummer Josh, he praised the Glasgow music scene for its diversity, calling it absolutely incredible. However pop punk is a genre that seems to be less apparent in the music scene with the likes of indie rock bands and solo acts taking up a large chunk of the scene. You’d think for a band that’s genre is usually full of pessimistic attitudes that it would put them off but Josh thinks differently. Unlike artists such as Noel Gallagher who constantly slate the state of music nowadays, Josh said it was in pretty good condition and any musician with a positive attitude towards music is one to keep an eye on. Not only did he have a positive attitude but when asked if Danny DeVito was to be a member of the band, he said he’d offer him his place on drums, manners and everything. As he listed off his influences, it wasn’t that difficult to see how much of an impact they had on him and the band as a whole. “The first sort of rock music I got into was blink-182, biffy clyro and the foo fighters so just listening to Travis Barker, Ben Johnston and Taylor Hawkins made me want to be in a band.” From the demos alone, Cheapside have the rawness and untidiness of early biffy ,helped by both Josh on drums and Ian Gordon & Dan Drennan on guitar, which is strangely appealing to the ears alongside a Tom Delonge-esque delivery from John Sim. The band are currently looking for a bass player so if you think you’ve got what it takes then don’t hesitate to contact the band because from what’s been hinted at so far, there’s something special bound to be crafted.

Bandcamp | Facebook |Twitter

So that’s the first entry in what I’m hoping will be a weekly sort of series. If you want to be considered for it then don’t hesitate to contact me by email (liammenzies96@gmail.com) or by twitter (@blogclyro)!

 

Mumford And Sons – Babel

If you were to ask any member of the public a few years ago if a band dressed like they worked on a farm and performed folk music would become internationally recognisable, you’d be ridiculed but that’s exactly what has happen with Mumford & Sons. Their 2009 debut was a surprise and up to now is still an indie gem full of foot stomping anthems that many songwriters dream about making so it’s no surprise that the build up to Mumford’s new album was full of both excitement as well as anxiety. It can be said that most of these worries can be put to rest as Babel has delivered the goods.

Whereas their debut started off with the chilling Sigh No More before venturing off into The Cave and Winter Winds, Mumford are very much aware of where they are in the media’s attention as a refreshing, energetic band and so start off with Babel, a track that’ll be on their setlist at gigs and festivals for years to come which is followed up Whispers In The Dark, a song full of beautiful lyrics and a classic chorus that will have fans of the band shouting and screaming during it from the top of their lungs. It’s at this point in the album that you would expect things to die down into something a bit slow but with the confidence that the band are showing, they belt out hit after hit showing that they’ve not lost the same charisma that have made the band instantly recognisable. So what can be wrong with something full of enthralling tracks that are admirable and brilliant? Well the problem with Babel is it seeming a little too safe which can be argued as being exactly what fans wanted but it almost seems like there’s something Mumford are holding back on and they may just be waiting for their third album which is currently in development to showcase this but this may leave some fans feeling a little let down but with tracks like Lover Of The Light and Hopeless Wanderer, they’ll hardly be complaining. 

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Babel is proof that Mumford & Sons deserve to be in the position that they’re at in the music world and the charisma that they portray in both of their albums is best to be experienced live. Babel’s only downfall is the fact that it plays it safe and many like myself would like to see them experiment with their sound to show progression that would make their mark on the music world. Babel is proof that they’re well on their way to do so.