New Music Roundup – October 2017

While Post Malone (real name Austin) might continue to dominate the singles chart, the more interesting stuff is (as is increasingly the case) to be found away from the top 40.

Albums

If you hanker for the days when Taylor Swift just made inoffensive country-infused pop music, then you’re in for a treat once you discover the breezy sound of Kelsea Ballerini. Her second album Unapologetically is out now and it’s a solid collection of MOR country with a handful of enormous choruses.

Single Unapologetically is probably the highlight here, and while it couldn’t be less visionary or original, Ballerini does what she does pretty well.

I’ve been a huge fan of Kelly Clarkson for years now and the former American Idol star is now on her eighth album. Sadly, The Meaning Of Life is the first time that I’ve been totally underwhelmed by a Clarkson record, and that’s despite the fact that lead single Love So Soft has grown on me over recent weeks.

She gets her lungs around a couple of decent ballads here – check out I Don’t Think About You – but I’m not a fan of the direction she has taken here. It doesn’t matter though, as Christmas is nearly here and so I can get the brilliant Wrapped In Red out for another year.

I never thought I’d see the day where I’d be recommending any album closely associated with Russell Crowe, but his new collective Indoor Garden Party have a record out, and while it’s not wall-to-wall brilliant it certainly has its moments.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s the moments where Crowe relinquishes lead vocal duties that are the highights. Single Out Of Range is a really solid power ballad, and Samantha Barks (off of Les Miserables has a superb voice.

Some of the record sounds like Crowe doing rabble-rousing Australian drinking songs, but overall it’s certainly got enough going for it to be worth a listen.

Singles

Erik Jonasson’s debut single Like A Funeral was so good that I honestly didn’t think he’d ever be able to hit those heights. Then, along came Autumn Falls – one of my singles of 2016 – and now Jonasson is back with a new single. I’m not sure Those Words ever quite reaches the brilliance of his previous releases, but I love it and I cannot wait for a full album to finally emerge.

I’m a massive fan of singer/songwriter Frances and she’s teamed up with Grey on their new single Room 101. It seems like a gentle ballad but gets really interesting towards the end thanks to some amazing production. A real grower, this one.

Tom Chaplin is joining the Christmas album bandwagon this year, although there is hope as at least two-thirds of it is brand new material. Lead single Under A Million Lights is decent enough, even if it does sound like Keane hit Higher Than The Sun and is guilty of some rather Dr Seuss-esque rhymeage.

Other stuff to check out includes Scar, the great debut track from Tremors, The VHS Collection’s So I Met Someone and It’s A Shame, where First Aid Kit properly get their country rocks off.

One of the best pop records of the last few months comes from Rae Morris ahead of her second album, due in February 2018. Do It is just the chirpiest and catchy single currently around, and if here upcoming record is half as good as this it promises to be a treat.

What about you? Like any of these? What have you been listening to?

The Top 5 Divorce Songs

There are thousands of break-up songs in the pop music canon.? And, we’ve all listened to them in the past when we needed to get over unrequited or lost love.? And, as Elton John sang in Sad Songs, ‘from the lips of some old singer we can share the troubles we already know.’

However, divorce songs take the break-up to a whole new level.? They can be cutting, bitter, regretful and moving as they often share the singer or songwriter’s very personal experience.

There are lots of brilliant divorce songs, but here’s my top five.

Abba – The Winner Takes It All

When writing a piece about the world’s greatest songs about or inspired by divorce, it would be hard not to include the single that was voted Britain’s Favourite Break-Up Song in a 2006 TV poll.

Apparently written about the deteriorating relationship between Bjorn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Faltskog, The Winner Takes It All topped the UK charts in 1980 and has repeatedly been voted the nation’s favourite Abba song in polls.

Whether it’s about the writer’s own separation (Ulvaeus says not, the basis of the song being “the experience of a divorce, but it’s fiction. There wasn’t a winner

Balm been threw product application black buy viagra several I experienced that couple oil caked and really.

or a loser in our case. A lot of people think it’s straight out of reality, but it’s not”) or it’s simply a break-up song, The Winner Takes It All is arguably the most famous and best-loved divorce song of them all.

Alanis Morrisette – Underneath

Bearing in mind that most of her songs are written about personal experiences, it stood to reason that a difficult and traumatic break-up was always going to lead to Alanis Morrissette penning a less than complimentary song about her own situation.

When the Canadian singer-songwriter split with Hollywood actor Ryan Reynolds, her following album, 2008’s Flavors of Entanglement, was written about the grief and pain she suffered after the break-up.? It’s an album that must have made tough listening for Reynolds and lead single Underneath was particularly honest.? Underneath opens ‘look at us break our bones in this kitchen/look at us rallying all our defences’ and whilst it’s technically not a divorce record – the pair were only engaged – it’s as bitter and honest a break-up record as exists in modern pop.

Kelly Clarkson – Because Of You

After shooting to superstardom by winning American Idol in 2002, Kelly Clarkson’s record label were reluctant to include the song Because Of You on either her debut album Thankful or the follow-up Breakaway.

Apparently written when Clarkson was sixteen years old to cope with the emotional trauma of her parent’s divorce, Because Of You was polished by producers Ben Moody and David Hodges and released as a single in 2005, reaching the top ten across the world.

From the opening line (‘I will not make the same mistakes that you did/will not let myself cause my heart so much misery’) it’s clear that this is a song written from deep personal experience of the effect that a divorce can have on a teenager.? It’s a superb and moving pop record.

Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand – You Don’t Bring Me Flowers

Lots of songs about break-ups and divorces concentrate on giant, ethereal themes such as the end of love or the pain of the parting of the ways.? Others take a bitter look at who is to blame or are written from the position of a child caught up in the split.

What I love about You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, however, is that it does the exact opposite.? By concentrating on the tiny minutae of relationships it is somehow way more powerful than songs which talk in general terms.

I’d wager that ‘You hardly talk to me anymore/when you come through the door/at the end of the day’ is the most cutting, acerbic and honest lyric ever written in a break-up song.? This is not a vague overview of the deterioration in a marriage; this is the day to day factors which see two people drift apart.

For these reasons, I think You Don’t Bring Me Flowers is the greatest break-up song of them all.? Heart wrenching.

Jason Mraz – Love For A Child

The second divorce song written from a child’s perspective, Love For A Child features on Mraz’s bestselling 2008 album We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.? Loosely based on his parent’s own divorce when he was five years old, Love For A Child is a heartbreaking look at a parental split through the eyes of a small boy.

Mraz told the San Diego Union Tribune: “(One) line is from when my parents were busy not talking to each other. I could hide right down the middle (between them). I could tell my dad, ‘I’m going to my mom’s,’ and tell her, ‘I’m going to my dad’s,’ and

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then disappear for the weekend and learn (things) the hard way.”

Lyrics such as ‘Was it mom who put my dad out on

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his ass or the other way around/well I’m far too old to care about that now’ and ‘it’s kinda nice to work the floor since the divorce/I’ve been enjoying both my Christmases and my birthday cakes/and taking drugs and making love at far too young an age/and they never checked to see my grades’ tell the tale of someone caught between two separated parents.

Mind you, there is affection in the song too.? Mraz added: “At same time, I had a great upbringing from two families. And the freedom I had, I’m grateful for. You can’t live the rest of your life carrying a pain because your parents couldn’t get along. I choose to spend my life crafting a joy.”

_____________________________

There’s my top 5 divorce songs.? Any that you’d agree with? Any you’d add to the list? Let me know by commenting below.

Why Talking At Gigs Makes The Rest Of Us Want To Throttle You

What is it with today’s gig-going audience?

I’ve been to hundreds of gigs in my time, and for the last 18 months or so I’ve been reviewing lots of music and theatre events for the Nottingham Post.? Over that time, there seems to have been a marked increase in some terrible audience habits to the point where going to a gig – particularly in some venues – is completely losing its allure.

Incessant talking

Last night, my wife and I went to see Noah and the Whale at Nottingham’s Rock City.? I was reviewing the gig for the newspaper, and we arrived about 15 minutes before the band took to the stage.? Now, I’m a big fan of the band and was quite looking forward to seeing them live for the first time.

About fifteen minutes into their set, a group of four women – aged in their late 20s, I would say – started to fight their way past us to get a better view. ? If this elbow-led barging wasn’t annoying enough – the start time was displayed prominently and available if you’d called the venue in advance – but it was what they did next that really rankled.

The four of them began to talk to one another.? And I don’t mean the odd word or comment.? The four of them yakked loudly and incessantly throughout most of the next hour.? At one point, my wife told them to shut up as it was pretty much all you could hear.? They pulled a rude face at her and carried on regardless.

And then, when the band did one of their more laid back songs – Blue

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Skies I think it was – it was apparent that chatting was a more serious problem.? While Charlie Fink was singing one of the band’s prettier songs it was hard to hear a word he was saying for the cacophony of noise being generated by the audience.

The noise was genuinely astounding.? And, it seems it’s not just me that has experienced increased atrocious behaviour at gigs.? A friend at the same gig noted: “It is an increasing pain in the arse at gigs where gossip is more important than the band who become background music! Stay at home and play your f***ing CDs!”

And when I mentioned this issue on Twitter, there was plenty of support:

@miketd: “People are talking REALLY LOUDLY at a Noah and the Whale gig? Sounds all too familiar”

@Dan_Bonnington: “I feel your gig talking pain, went to see Mumford And Sons at R.City last year, was completely ruined by constant talking”

@dflite: “Oh christ yes, it’s absolutely

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inexcusable. People even *turn their backs* on the stage. YOU’VE

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PAID TO BE HERE! WTF??”

@hopkerhockey: “God yes. Why do people pay £20 to go out for a shouty natter? Birmingham gigs particularly bad for this I think”

What is the point of paying £20 for a ticket only to chat throughout the whole thing?? Are they the same people who talk

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at the cinema?? Are they just there as it’s a night out and they’re not bothered about listening to the band?

I like the sound of this place mentioned by @benlocker: “I used to love the Vortex in Stoke Newington “London’s ‘no-talking’ jazz club”…”

So, if you’re one of these gig-going idiots: watch the band and shut up.? If you’re not prepared to, don’t go at all.? Thanks.

Meet The Staves

It’s been almost a year since the Staves were last in Nottingham.? Sisters Emily, Jessica and Camilla wowed a small audience at the Bodega Social last October whilst opening for Keane side-project Mt Desolation and despite rave reviews, little has been heard of the trio since.

However, all that could be about to change.? Sitting at the back of the Glee club, it turns out that the band have been busy this year, with this short tour supporting American singer songwriter Willy Mason just part of a busy autumn.

The trio are clearly excited about what the near future might bring and have clearly been hard at work.? “Doing the album has taken up most of our time this year.? We’ve also done some gigs, some recording and some more writing, which has been cool.

“We’ve basically finished our album but we don’t know when it’s going to come out yet – hopefully around spring.? We also have an EP later in the year – probably the end of October.”

For those unfamiliar with the Staves, think the Fleet Foxes but with female vocals.? Soaring harmonies, gentle acoustic guitar and some high quality songwriting mean that mainstream success is surely only a matter of time.? Especially, I wondered, with a general resurgence in interest in folk-pop acts?

“I think there’s more interest in the singer/songwriter genre – there was Damien Rice back when that huge record came out – and then there’s people today like Willy Mason, Laura Marling – classic songwriters of today.? It’s the simplicity of someone with a guitar – there’s no frills, just them and the music, their voice and their guitar.

“You can connect to that sort of music much better than with the glitz and glamour of stuff like the X-Factor and it’s definitely reassuring that people like to come out and listen to this kind of music.”

While their existing recordings give a taste of what to expect from the band – the beautiful Mexico and Facing West appear in their set – only by hearing the girls live can you truly appreciate the genuinely spellbinding nature of their harmonies.? And, the reaction to their live performances seems to be almost universally positive.

“You don’t really get many harmony groups without a big band behind them, so perhaps it’s something that people haven’t seen much of.

“It’s nice when people come up to you afterwards and say that they enjoyed the show, but obviously you’re not going to get that many people coming up to you telling you that they didn’t enjoy it!? We don’t have people walking out of our gigs or throwing things at us….

“You can kind of gauge it by the reaction of the audience – when people are quiet and listen, especially when you’re a support band that people aren’t there to see – they don’t owe us anything.”

It’s been a long road for the Staves to even get this far – indeed the trio freely admit that it’s only relatively recently that they made the decision to take the music business seriously.

“We’ve always sung together around the house, in the car. ? One summer, a friend cajoled us into doing an open mic night at our local pub, so we did some covers and really enjoyed it.? We then did a gig of covers and enjoyed that – it has been a very slow process as one of us was always at uni and so it would be a ‘one gig a year’ thing.

“A couple of years ago we thought we should actually try to do this properly. We didn’t take it very seriously at first but then started writing some songs and it went from there.? This is our life now – it’s definitely what we want to do.? It would be amazing to be able to make a living from this and to do it as long as we wanted to make music together.? That’s the aim.”

I wondered that considering recent spats between members of sibling bands – think the Gallaghers and the Followills – whether the Staves also had their family moments.

“Being sisters is a blessing and a curse! We fight all the time, but as we’re sisters you can fight and it’s all OK.? There’s no grudges held – it’s very honest. We don’t fight in the sense that we don’t get on, we just spend a lot of time together.? We end up squabbling in the car, just like when we were kids – about which CD we want to listen to…

“We can’t imagine doing this with anyone else, though – it’s definitely our thing.”

If you think the Pierces had the ‘sibling acoustic singer songwriter’ market sewn up, you should think again.? After the haunting Winter Trees and the rousing

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new song What Good Am I? rounded off another superb show, a respectful and generous audience seemed to register what many already know; that the Staves are a band going places.

“As for conquering the world, we don’t know.? We just want to make music that people feel a connection to, that they enjoy listening to and that we like.”

____________________________________________


The Staves’ new EP is scheduled for release in late October.

Listen to Facing West, Mexico and The Fire at: http://www.myspace.com/thestavesmusic
For more information go to The Staves’ website or the Facebook page

The Man With The Midas Touch

Before Christmas, I read this excellent blog post by fellow

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copywriter Mike Fleming. In it, Mike talks about how interesting his work had become in 2010, and how he had become ‘lucky enough to work on projects that encompass my actual interests and pursuits’.

I’m certainly not at that stage and, I suspect, many of us will never be as fortunate as Mike. However, that’s not to say that every day of work is filled with boring, awful grind and no fun.

One of my earliest jobs – which continues today – was to write a series of researched, informed articles about the music of James Bond. At the time I imagine I felt much like I imagine Mike does now. Being paid? To write about James Bond? It seemed almost too good to be true.

I am now fifteen soundtracks into the job. Fifteen superb film scores that I have immersed myself in, listened to dozens of times, researched and analysed. Like any kid of my age, I was brought up with James Bond and I’ve always been a massive fan of both Fleming’s books and the twenty two 007 films. I also was familiar with the theme songs, but listening to the full orchestral soundtracks has been an absolute joy. Rich, powerful and beautiful; the soundtracks are far, far more than the theme songs we all know and love.

Of course, the world was saddened this weekend by the sudden death of John Barry; a man who will forever be intrinsically linked with the iconic Bond music. Barry scored eleven James Bond films (as well as countless other motion pictures and TV series) and created, in my humble opinion, some of the most spectacularly brilliant movie music of all time. Diamonds are Forever is Steven Spielberg’s favourite movie theme. Born Free won two Oscars. And, We Have All The Time In The World is, apparently, the UK’s third favourite wedding song.

A couple of weeks ago, after interviewing one of my all time favourite singer/songwriters, I remarked on Twitter that I

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was three fifths of the way to interviewing my musical heroes. Whilst I may still get the opportunity to speak with Steve Winwood, the chance of an interview with Barry is now gone.

Genius is a word that is used far too frequently in this day and age, but that’s precisely what Barry was. I hope that in years to come his output will come to be seen as the ‘classical’ music of his generation – perhaps not the theme to The Persuaders (!) but certainly some of his beautiful work on Dances with Wolves, Out of Africa and the Bond series.

I have been lucky enough to be on the BBC twice today to talk about Barry and his music. Indeed, the local station clipped up my comments and used them on their hourly news when reporting Barry’s death. These appearances and the writing of the Bond articles have barely felt like work. If that’s how Mike feels every day, that’s a goal worth striving for.

You can read my articles on the James Bond soundtracks here.

What Is The Best Pop Song….Ever?

As part of the launch of my new book, 101 Forgotten Pop Hits of the 1980s, I did an interview last week with my good friend Mike Atkinson for the excellent local Nottingham publication, Left Lion.

One of the questions I was asked – and one that I really should have been prepared for – was ‘Of the songs you have included in the book, which is your favourite’?

After a bit of deliberation, I picked Gold by Spandau Ballet as the one I would keep for the nation, and Love Changes (Everything) by Climie Fisher as the one I’d keep for myself (I appreciate that is a bit of a cheat of an answer, but there you go.)

Anyway, it got me thinking (as I also did later on when watching the season finale of the always entertaining series Glee) about what is the greatest contemporary pop record of all time.? Not my favourite – but the best in objective terms.

Clearly, there are gazillions of records that you could choose, and there’s no way of realistically determining whether one is better than another.? Is the Beatles Hey Jude better than Rule the World by Take That?? Hanson’s Mmmbop better or worse than Daydream Believer?? Is Bohemian Rhapsody a pop record, and is it better than Relax, You’re The One That I Want or Don’t You Want Me?

After some cogitating, I came up with Unchained Melody.? For the number of successful cover versions and its enduring popularity, it must surely rank somewhere high on the list.

And just when I thought I might have my answer, I remembered one more song.? A song that is so perfect and so well-loved across several generations; a song so beautiful that it sounds as good today as it did when it was recorded; a song that is famous and yet something you never, ever tire of hearing.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhzbzwPNgXA[/youtube]

Is Somewhere Over The Rainbow the best pop record of all time?

…………………………………

Nick Parkhouse is a professional writer. He provides articles, copy, pressreleases and books and marketing material to a range of local and international clients. He also specialises in sports writing for a number of international sports companies as well finance, property, politics and cinema writing.

Nick’s first book, 101 Forgotten Pop Hits of the 1980s, is also now available at www.authorhouse.co.uk