2017 Review – Best Single

Our votes for Best Single are as follows…

3. Rose Elinor Dougall – Closer (16.3%)

2. The Killers – The Man (29%)

1. Kendrick Lamar – HUMBLE. (30.6%)

Rose Elinor Dougall – Stellular Review 


It’s been almost seven years since Rose Dougall’s first album Without Why. It was an inspired debut that balanced melancholy with direct Rock Pop. Sadly, it remained a hidden gem, lauded by a select few critics. A few weeks ago, Rose’s new album Stellular came in to the Records Sales Chart as a new entry at number one; knocking off none other than The Rolling Stones off the top spot and beating fellow new entry Brian Eno for good measure. This album has garnered more attention and has been featured more widely in the press which is no more than she deserves. Of course the proof lies in the music and her Future Vanishes EP in 2013 suggested a vibrant change of style was on the horizon. Has it came to pass? 

That shift in style is strongly felt with the lead singamd title track ‘Stellular’. It has that very keen sense of rhythm, but channeled through an Eighties Indie Pop track. Cascading synths take us from the verse to the chorus where Rose’s wistful vocals focus the buoyant sounds around her. It is a shifting and jiving piece of Pop music and as always it’s done with imagination with lyrics of emotional fragility Sifted through the guise of astronomy. It is an unrelenting track that leaves an indelible mark in your mind. ‘Strange Warnings’starts with a calm, Indie riff under a psychedelic disguise that then is suddenly yet all so easily pulled under a bass line that maintains a solid and arresting tune. The simple percussion also has the urgency of the rhythm being created. Rose joins in with her more haunting vocals as the steady build up of sound continues with the synths latching on too. It is a pure feast of groove and rhythm for which producer Boxed In deserves praise too. ‘Poison Ivy’ has a breezy and wistful flow to it from which melodic riffs peer through. Built on what are her easy and sweeping vocals, hidden behind all this are the sustained and complex percussion that maintains a steady rhythmic beat throughout the song and gives it a greater sense of depth and texture. The themes of jealousy, possession and power are projected out by the soothing vocals that are tinged with darker undercurrents in a smart contradiction to the ears. 

‘Take Yourself With You’ carries on the air of the Future Vanishes tracks, with the slack, sweeping production and the indelible melodies. This track has these themes wrapped around a bright and breezy pop swoon with the loose riffs and chiming synths, tinged with an aged warping sound. Wistful harmonies back up Rose’s calm vocals from which she occasionally explores some higher tones as she sings about reinventing yourself. ‘Closer’ is a punchy and slick piece of Pop that has elements of the Human League to it its sound and lyrical style. Each steady stab of the bass line is tinged ringing riffs at the end of each line. It’s a another track bursting with rhythm and hooks. ‘All at Once’ is an alluring electro-pop track made so with smooth, rolling instrumentation and Rose’s hushed tones.’Colour of Water’ has a light neo-psychedelic feel to it whilst ‘Hell and Back’ has relaxed elements of her earliest solo work. For the most part, Rose has fulfilled her ambitions with this album as it is vibrant, infectious and dynamic. Her complex and multi-layered narratives make every track an intriguing one, but perhaps there were a few towards the end of the album that didn’t need to be there. They were breezy and subtle tracks, but they don’t necessarily add to the Pop and energises core of the album. Nevertheless, it’s been well worth the wait and Stellular justifies the Popular and critical acclaim it’s received.

Rose Elinor Dougall – Stellular = 8/10

Owen Riddle 

Single Review – Rose Elinor Dougall – Stellular 

Rose Dougall has been pretty busy in recent months, with her part in the mini-supergroup Innerspace Orchestra earlier in the year and now with the release of the title track from what will be her upcoming second album Stellular. Her 2010 debut Without Why is criminally undervalued in the mainstream despite the critical praise it received; with tracks that were infectious and others that were mysterious, it remains a hidden gem. Similarly, her 2013 EP Future Vanishes saw Dougall expand and diversify her sound with indelible hooks and rhythms and this signalled a shift in her sound. This shift leads us to ‘Stellular’. It has that very keen sense of rhythm, but channeled through an Eighties Indie Pop track. Cascading synths take us from the verse to the chorus where Rose’s wistful vocals focus the buoyant sounds around her. It is a shifting and jiving piece of Pop music and as always it’s done with imagination with lyrics of emotional fragility entwined with astronomy. Well worth the wait! 

Owen Riddle

This Weeks Music Video with The Weeknd, Mitski, The Last Shadow Puppets, Rose Elinor Dougall and The Japanese House

Single Review – Innerspace Orchestra – One Way Glass

Innerspace Orchestra

If you are fan of The Horrors, Rose Elinor Dougall or Fanfarlo, then this new collaborative trio will interest you. Innerspace Orchestra is made up of Tom Furse, Cathy Lucas and the aforementioned Dougall, who have joined forces over a mutual love of Shoegaze of which some of the members have already dabbled. They have unveiled their debut single ‘One Way Glass’ which is faithful in it’s expansive Shoegaze sweeps and extensions; in a way slightly evocative of The Horrors circa. 2011. This sound is more fine tuned with live drums and more prominent bass lines and rhythms. Rose’s wistful vocals blend wonderfully into the soundscapes, yet remain loud enough to direct the verses. It is an intriguing track which mainly a familiar piece of Shoegaze indulgence, but with more than enough talent to produce new and exciting things.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Single Review / Album Taster – Rose Elinor Dougall – Take Yourself With You

Just over a year after the release of one of the finest EP’s of the 2013 with Future Vanishes Rose Elinor Dougall returns with the track ‘Take Yourself With You’; an album track from her ‘soon to come’ second studio album entitled STELLULAR which is likely to be unveiled around five years after her Without Why debut in 2010. The track carries on the air of the Future Vanishes tracks, with the slack, sweeping production and the indelible melodies. This track has these themes wrapped around a bright and breezy pop swoon with the loose riffs and chiming synths, tinged with an aged warping sound. Wistful harmonies back up Rose’s calm vocals from which she occasionally explores some higher tones. She revealed to the Quietus that the lyrics are about “learning to accept to exist within that might be a way to be truly liberated instead of running away” and trying to reinvent yourself. Unlike the irremovable catchiness and infectious groove and rhythms of ‘Strange Warnings’ or ‘Future Vanishes’ this track is a more light and relaxed affair; more reflective. It suggests early on that the album will have a sense of depth a scale to it; an album she worked on with Oli Bayston as she did with last years EP. From that evidence and this simple, yet easy track it looks like STELLULAR is something to look forward to.

Sunday Suggestion – Rose Elinor Dougall – Future Vanishes

Last Autumn Rose Elinor Dougall released her EP Future Vanishes as a sign of things to come with her future direction. Not only was it my favourite EP of the year but the title track my favourite single. It has melodies and hook at every turn, it has a magnificent atmospheric quality to it, imaginative in it’s forms and lyrics and innovative in terms of combining pop and electronic features to a psychedelic track. On top of all this is it’s beautiful contradiction of its self. It can send you into an atmospheric and psychedelic trip into the depths of your thoughts or can leave you at the mercy of it’s rhythm and deep rooted groove. It does everything you ask for. A wondrous track.

Do Music and Politics Still Mix in the U.K?

You hear quite often that music and politics don’t mix and that is the reason why musical innovation has slowed, as we all look back and borrow from times when they did mix. For the most part that is true, but it is not universal by any means. It might not even be intentional if the listener makes that connection to a political happening, then it is a political song for them and may sway them to whatever debate they are interested in. It might not be as direct as ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday by Lennon and John Lydon might not be snarling ‘God Save The Queen’ to us all, but you’d be surprised what you find and don’t assume that musicians are automatically out and out liberals still either.

Most of these are in direct or indirect relation to Scottish Independence, E.U membership or general distaste with Mr Cameron and his Bullingdon Chumps, but alas I shall try to remain neutral (I apologise in advance if I’m not!) but in the interest of sparing any complex questions, I identify as British-pro-European-NHS-anti-nationalist-pro-equality-environment-and-diversity-left-wing-between-Labour-and-GreenParty…. I hope that clears thing up for you…

Several high profile musicians such as McCartney, Jagger, Bowie, Bobby Gillespie, Bryan Ferry, Rod Jones and Sting have all thrown their hat into the no campaign for Scottish Independence in what seems to be a split between old liberals and young nationalists. The once forward looking ideals of a globalised world have surprisingly been openly rejected by Scotland’s young musicians whether it’s Kyle Falconer from The View or Django Django. It’s almost became a squabble between liberal against whatever sort of liberal the SNP are which isn’t very liberal of either side. It might explain why many supporting a YES vote try to detach themselves from the party as it would be a little confusing to support a party that says Liberal and does Centre Right? Then everyone would be voting Tory which would be a disaster from every angle. With regards to Europe we still have the trusty Manics to rely on with their unwavering left wing ideals but again a surprising lack of young people lend a voice in support of the EU which worryingly offers up the assumption that as a generation we are becoming far less interested in politics or if we are it is right leaning or right intending politics. A little sobering. We even have to still rely on Johnny Marr to do the Tory bashing, but is there still a creative outlet in young musicians and in turn, young people to combine music and politics together and more vitally left wing politics?

Chvrches

Though Lauren Mayberry has declared herself as neutral in the independence debate; Britain’s and Glasgow’s newest and brightest synth pop group can’t keep themselves out of the debate. Their hit single ‘The Mother We Share’ is often used as a pro independence song and it’s easy to see why with lyrics such as “We’ve come as far as we’re ever gonna get
Until you realize, that you should go” or “I’m in misery where you can seem as old as your omens
And the mother we share will never keep your proud head from falling”. These seem like clear statements of a nostalgic yet certain break up of the Union set around warm electronic instrumentals with the slow dropping synths and sweeping sounds.

If you ask supporters of a no vote however, they will point you to the song ‘Lies’. It’s lyrics do seem relate to how everyone has bought into Alex Salmond’s vision without questioning him or his propaganda. When “I can sell you lies. You can’t get enough. Make a true believer of anyone” is sung, you do see the link and anyone questioning whether Salmond is as Liberal as he presents himself as, are sure to look at this song for solidarity.

Franz Ferdinand

The well established Indie ‘troopers’ are playing a pro Independence gig on September 14th so that should give you a little idea of where their allegiances lie. Not only that, but you detect subtle hints and satirical snipes at the politicians involved, but mainly aimed at those of the NO campaign or we can safely assume that at least. ‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’ speaks for itself when those points are considered. “Almost everything could be forgotten” and “this time same as before, I’ll love you forever”. evoke the satire they direct to those wishing to keep the Union.

Maximo Park

Maximo Park are another well established act dealing in electronically charged Indie rock. They are very proud to come from the North East of England and Tyneside, Wearside and Teesside in particular. There is a real fear in this region, which I am from myself; that we have been forgotten about in this whole debate as we will be hit hardest by the fallout on either side of the border should Scotland vote yes, but we don’t have any say. Salmond’s ‘Friends of Scotland’ speech to us all in Gateshead, back in 2012 was very quickly soured as he also trying to lure business to away from the area to Scotland at the time. He has never been back since funnily enough, but he occasionally uses the region as a pawn for his goals as he did recently in effectively claiming the NHS in Gateshead was inept and that operations were being axed. If the people in this region didn’t feel alienated and patronised enough, now we all just see Salmond in a similar light to Cameron. ‘Leave This Island’ is a song that is very frank and reflective of these feeling with an abundance of lyrics.

“So we watched the water swell, from a Scottish hotel. Have you ever fell?”

“Are you gonna tell me why there’s a backpack by the bedroom window? It’s a pack of lies. Everything has to reach a peak sometime. Tell me why? There’s a map lain flat on the bedside table. It’s a pack of lies. It’s not a peak, it’s a plateau. Let me know. When you wanna leave this island. Let me know. When you wanna hear my point of view”

They have always been prevalent with their political messages in their music and tracks from their last album such as ‘The National Health’ are testament to that. As are the past actions that spawned the messages of ‘Leave This Island’,which have only been reinforced by recent comments.  

Wild Beasts

Wild Beasts from Cumbria also seem to be reflective of the frustration at the thought of a their region becoming a potential borderland should Scotland vote for separation from the rest of the U.K. The first half of their song ‘Wanderlust’ shows the hopeful optimism many people had as a union with Scotland and with everyone on these islands sharing common means and unbroken connections as the lyrics “Wanderlust. With us, the world feels voluptuous. I just feel more with us. It’s a feeling that I’ve come to trust.” show that naïve sense of safety that nothing will happen. As the song becomes more aggressive and darker with it’s heavy distorted synths and sharper percussion, the lyrics read “Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck. Funny how that little pound buys a lot of luck. Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck. In your mother tongue, what’s the verb “to suck?” These lyrics swiftly signal the change of the debate into a snarling and bitter argument and how the optimism of the earlier lyrics have been buried under debates about currency, oil and other things to the point where it feels like that trust and optimism has long gone to the point where they ‘don’t give a fuck’ anymore. As if too much damage has been done anyway.

White Lies

The Ealing group don’t appear to have much of a political opinion, however you detect some subtle hints in their most recent that could be applied and have been applied to political thinking on a person by person level. The lyrics in ‘Getting Even’ are believe to be a passionate plea to keep these island unified or to remain unified with Europe. I’m yet to be so convinced but it isn’t impossible and it is easy to link a song that appears to be about sour break ups and the petty arguments that ensue to either debate.

“So if you go. And leave recklessly. We can only be me. We can only be me. That’s something I. Through the tons of my life. Never wanted to be. Never wanted to be.”

“But if you stay. Just a bolt in the ball. Then you’ll never know. Then you’ll never know. How you could miss. Like the day light the way. You’re missing us now. You’re missing us now.”

“So listen to some reason. There’s nothing in your dreams. But if you’re getting even. You’re getting even. Trying to get even. Better start believing. I can forgive. And we can forget…”

Rose Elinor Dougall

If you’ve ever read the posts on this site, then you won’t find it hard to find one on this woman. Not only is her music varied and so effortlessly delivered but she, like many young people in the U.K; have positive and forward thinking views on women’s equality, NHS and more. Last year she released ‘Future Vanishes’. It’s a track that perfectly encases her forlorn and cynical lyrics around perfectly poised hooks and melancholy. Lyrics that read “Time casts no shadow on the old sundial” reference a time or thing long confined to the past. “Escape as future vanishes” gives a sense that the very past she spoke of is returning and the future is vanishing. Perhaps an ode to the reversal of these islands back to it’s divisive past. “Stay on the outside. In a nowhere place, neither young nor wise.” could easily be construed as a reference to yes voters or to supporters of UKIP too, who wish to leave Europe. She points out how old fashioned and unwise such nationalistic attitudes might be and the lyrics “Don’t know where I’ve been and I can’t tell you where I’m going to” is a clear reflection of many as these islands teeter on the edge of the unknown and we start to wonder what identity we will hold.

Kasabian

The band from Leicester have grown to be one of the biggest in the country and the world, with headlining Glastonbury acting as evidence of their standing. This year’s fifth studio album from them in 48:13 has plenty of politically tinged statements, but none more so than ‘Glass’. The track eerily meanders with muted, flashing electronica and simple, yet purposeful bass lines and percussion.  This song bemoans how we’ve stopped trying to change things and how both at home and around the world, we are willing to let ourselves fall back into things and times we have thought against in the past. “We are going nowhere fast. Are we made of glass? No one knows, no one knows” reflect this and “Save me. Oh, come on and save me. From this world. Tell me. Cause I need to know. I’m not alone.” are almost an acknowledgment that such activism is dead and that we need saving from the world as it falls apart and hit the rewind button of progression. The closing rap from Suli Breaks depressing closes the song with the lines “When did we stop believing? When did we stop marching? When did we stop chanting?” in a exasperated sense of frustration of how it went wrong. How we’ve all moved towards nationalism and the right without a question or challenge.

Manic Street Preachers

We can always rely on the Manics to stand up for something they believe in as they have done for their entire careers. The two most recent albums have seen no change in that respect, but again you detect a hint of disillusionment and being lost in the narrow minded and increasingly nationalistic and right leaning tendencies. In recent interviews they’ve talked of how they’ve lost faith in Labour and the centre left and that they feel no one represents them. Almost a depressing notion of defeat about them as with the song ’30 Year War’ in which they sing about “And 30 years of war. To darken all our class. Black propaganda, lies and mistrust. See it in our eyes, the fire dimming away. The old-boy network won the war again.” and this idea of defeat continues with “The endless parade of old Etonian scum. Line the front benches so what is to be done? All part of the same establishment. I ask you again what is to be done?” as they lament the shrinking of the left and growth of the right.

They also recently declared themselves as Internationalists which was a refreshing consolation amongst the mass of nationalists in the news via Farage and the U.K Independence Party and Salmond with the Scottish Nationalist Party. A song to hit back at calls to leave Europe from bumbling ‘Man of the people’ Nigel Farage who managed to gain a foothold in every part of mainland Britain during the Elections to the European Parliament in May with only London making it difficult for them to do so. The song ‘Europa Geht Durch Mich’ from this year’s Futurology album; see’s the Manics show a much needed sign of affinity and solidarity with the rest of Europe with which the song translates to ‘Europe Goes Through Me’. The entire album Futurology is a rejection of digging up past situations and is about looking forward and being open minded as the Manics are.

Johnny Marr

Another reliable figure in speaking the truth when it needs to be spoken; Marr recently carried this on with his latest single ‘Easy Money’ in which he takes a stab at everyone who is driven by money alone and is also a protest to the current Tory government with the line “That’s no way to serve… nobody” and in the video he is seen goading a blurred out picture of David Cameron, who he has already brilliantly shown his distain for on a number of occasions. With this in mind, it is no doubt a dig at that age old tradition of the Conservative Party. Money over society.

So all in all, you can still find politically motivated music in the U.K, but with younger generations it has changed substantially. The classic left wing motivators and social commentators have gone. People either don’t care or if they do, they are on the nationalist or right leaning side which is why figures like Salmond and Farage dominate the agenda at the moment. Now politically motivated music is just bemoaning that fact on the whole or leaves them harking back with innovative music flourished along with liberalist and left wing thought. In that sense; where did it all go wrong?

Sunday Suggestion – Rose Elinor Dougall – Find Me Out

Rewind back to 2010 and you’d find a far more shy and awkward version of myself with a faithful Beatles haircut and enough emotional baggage to last a life time. Without sounding too cliché; my home at the time was not a safe haven to relax in, but a living nightmare. It had been that way for about a year and little did I know, it would be that way for a couple more. Aside from my friends (who I decided not to pull down with my baggage for a long while) and the mainstays of my life like F1 and other things, music had become a welcome escape and one I completely immersed myself in. At first I rewound back into times I had no connection to and found the likes of The Beatles, The Clash, Bowie, Simon & Garfunkel… all which were the best distractions I could have ever had. However, discovering music from the present was a little more refreshing and engaging for me and one of those was Rose Dougall. Aside from immediately falling into one of those dazed, teenage crushes with her, her music provided that little glimmer of hope or common ground in a little over three minutes. Plans of escape I made while listening to her Without Why album are fast becoming plans for the rest of my life. One song which appealed to me massively was ‘Find Me Out’. It had a musical feel and mood to match my own outlook at the time and everything from the title to the lyrics seemed to speak of my situation. The song opens with a forlorn and distant whistle along with equally fading synths before continuing with wiry and reassuring violin sounds and a simple snare drum and brush glaze. It would be easy to listen to a song that would allow you to vent your anger with an angry and snarling vocal, but I always went for Rose’s easy, breathy and intimate method on this track. The music and vocals of such a wonderfully simple and swooning track are offset by lyrics such as ‘My liver, my lungs, my arteries and my cerebral faculties are corroded’ which produced that clear and very present pain and draining feeling I had myself. It was more of a soothing track for me which got me through many a busy day at school knowing the frustrations that lay at home, but also one that sort of helped me deal with my situation at the time and simply get on with it. Her music has grown much more advanced and has new dimensions which I enjoy just as much if not more, yet songs like this while simple, still have a real connection for me.

Image from www.colemandesign.co.uk

 

Forget What The NME Says. This Is The True Face of Musical Progression.

I won’t get bogged down in the details, but I recently wrote an article about how musical progression, on the face of it is in grave decline compared to the second half of the twentieth century and it seems many are living in some ignorant bliss about it all. In what was largely a rant against the ‘Indie Hipster’ I did paint a pretty bleak picture about the majority of those who weren’t pushing music forward so I thought I’d redress that and show you who is.

 

Factory Floor and The Knife

Dark and gritty synthetic churnings and grindings of an industrial nature. A collage and a deep texture of different electronic sounds burrowing beneath the song or fire out from it in a laser like fashion. There isn’t really a traditional base or middling sound and if there is it isn’t playing centre stage. Songs that are pretty lengthy and play on sensory and emotive vulnerabilities. These are enhanced by the very different ways the vocals are packaged. Only inserted at intervals to enhance the sound or scare you half to death.

 

Bombay Bicycle Club

Though perhaps not making such a huge difference to the progression of music before; they certainly are now. They could almost act as the in-between or the transition from the ‘Hipster’ culture to the progressive and forward thinking culture and the highly futuristic nature of Factory Floor and The Knife. They are slightly less shocking and assertive in their approach and they act in a much more accessible and melodic fashion particularly with ‘Carry Me’ with a sustained vocal but still with a great focus on the music and an untraditional approach to verses.

 

Pinkunoizu

A great combination and clashing of different sounds to forge a new type of music but one that still has a large air of familiarity to it. Combining the punk and krautrock elements with the neo-psychedelic, shoegazing and even folk elements but in a much matter of fact way rather than making a mockery of the respected genres in the process. It results in direct and easy to grasp song progression but one that is much more complex and varied.

 

Warpaint

A fantastic proprietor of the atmospheric and of the expanded sound. They don’t plug a cheap atmosphere using the same default echo and distortion that most bands who think they are of the same banner. They in fact utilise the natural sound of their vocal as well as the differing effects that they have at their disposal. The also do this with the natural rotating rhythms and in using sounds to build up textures that are fluid and drawn out. Sometimes the atmospheric quality comes from the vocal, the guitars, the bass, percussion, synths etc. This can allow them to control the type of atmospheric quality of each song. Sometimes it can change mid-song, but they have the ability to produce completely spaced out and unlimited sounds and much more bottled up and immediate atmospheric moments.

 

The Horrors

Psychedelic music of the future. They have already went through a rapid personal musical progression and it would be a crime to leave them out of this list. The free flowing synths and the layering atop of it can be complex or simple but divulges the sound perfectly in a way original psychedelica has not. Combine that with the wizardry of guitarist Joshua Hayward. To a passing ear it just sounds like an aggressive shoegaze style, but it does so much more. Instead of acting as a side show of the rest of the song he uses it as the songs engine to grind out a tune from the reverb and to act as an added melodic element. You just have to look at the abundance of pedals he has to see where he is taking guitar music as a whole to an age of the intelligent and disciplined guitarist. The bass is always less obvious in it’s bass lines and Faris’ vocals speak for themselves for a fresh vocal style.

 

Rose Elinor Dougall

Not only was her debut album Without Why a great rejigging of outlooks on genres with brilliant combinations and fresh approaches on each; but her 2013 EP Future Vanishes is a great example of a new type of pop music. One that is more intelligent and does so much more than provide the quick fix people look for. Lyrically capable as always; she moulds songs that are infectious in their beat, rhythm, groove and melodic feel. You can sing a long and you can dance along to them. There is also a great spaced out quality to her music from which you can be totally immersed and lost in. Something that is rooted deeper by her lyrics. That doesn’t detract from those infectious qualities and if anything she cleverly utilises and manipulates this to enhance such things.

 

Damon Albarn

Already a legendary innovator in several guises; he has recently shown he can still do just that as we all set about embarking on his solo venture. Songs like ‘Everyday Robots’ are broken and off beat with their melodies and the mismatch of percussion going on at the same time. He combines the traditional strings and piano with the samples and lets them sit separately and unifying them with his easy listening vocal to smooth everything over. He has much more to give and much more to show younger generations currently driving music backwards.

That was just a few off the top of my head but there are such artists out there. You just have to find them and go to their gigs and so on for they are the true driving forces of music. Even if they are behind the scenes they are the forward thinkers and the progressives like generations before them.