Thursday, 16 March 2023

Single Review: Shawny - Justin Time

Shawny is an exciting new artist from Montreal in Canada, who has been creating music since the early pandemic days of 2020. He writes fun and meaningful songs that provide appeal to both the young and young at heart. He describes himself as an "edu-tainer", in that his background resides in early childhood education, which provides the bedrock for many of his educational themes.

Although he has only been around for a relatively short time, he has already made a huge splash on the children's music scene, having been featured on numerous radio shows and podcasts, and become increasingly active live.  Drawing inspiration from a long line of superb Canadian musicians including the likes of Raffi, and Sharon, Lois & Bram. He is clearly in good company.

His latest release "Justin Time", shows him venturing into rock territory, with pristine vocals, delightful harmonies and as catchy a tune as you are ever likely to hear. The song utilises a play on words, where the central character of the song will 'never keep you waiting because being late is a crime'. 

The song features live instrumentation throughout, including bass, drums, keyboards and what sounds like a slightly distorted guitar firing away in the background. One of the major strengths of the song is the lead vocals, which have a purity of intent, and resonate superbly throughout. There are also opportunities for counting throughout the song incorporated neatly into an inspired arrangement.

All in all a significant new talent here, who has set a hectic pace in the short time he has been treading the boards. I'm sure we will be hearing a lot more from him in the future.

Shawny - just in time to dance.

Friday, 10 February 2023

Single Review: Marsha and the Positrons and Claudia Robin Gunn - Thank You Science

One of the many things that the kindie community does well is collaborate, and there has been a spate of excellent collaborations of late. These include Esther Crow with Father Goose Music, Ashley Mills Monaghan with Music with Michal and Itty Bitty Beats with Benny Time to name just a few. One of my absolute favourites has to be "Thank You Science" an exciting collaboration between Claudia Robin Gunn and Marsha and the Positrons. The song is a celebration of science put to a dance beat, and highlights the significant contribution women have made to this field. The song is also well-timed, releasing tomorrow, February 11th which, if you weren't already aware, is International Women and Girls in Science Day. 

Interestingly, the song begins with the chorus with a lovely reciprocal vocal that hypnotises and delights in turn. The music has a lovely laid-back groove featuring a dance beat and some tasteful melodic bass underpinning the vocals which describe the numerous benefits of science to society. Whether this is 'teaching us at school', or helping us 'to understand the human race', this scientific journey goes into considerable depth. There are also a number of exquisite vocal performances on the song, with Marsha and Claudia being joined by the very talented Ayanna Gallant.

What I love about the song is the way each vocalist provides their own interpretation of the melody, adding significant impact to the overall sound. The originality of delivery includes both textural depth and cerebral sentiment, and is executed with noticeable flair. The bridge offers a significant departure with a melodic shift enabling the lyrics to further explore the scientific process where we 'gather data', and then 'hypothesise' before the melody soars upwards in rapturous delight. The song also contains a wonderful musical interlude incorporating a keyboard pattern slightly reminiscent of "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who.

All in all a very ambitious song, which manages to cram copious scientific ideas into a somewhat compressed space and does so in fine style. A marvellous journey into the world of science accompanied by music that swoops and soars like birds piercing the clouds. The harmonies are superb as are the lyrics, which capture the attention of the listener throughout. Clearly a lot of thought has gone in to the writing and arranging of this song, and it has certainly paid off with a superb educational track serving to remind the listener of the significant contribution women have made to the field of science.

Marsha and the Positrons and Claudia Robin Gunn - the sound of experimentation.

Wednesday, 28 December 2022

Flash Single Review: Marsha and the Positrons - New Leaf

Marsha and the Positrons are a kindie rock band from Washington DC. I first discovered them when I was compiling a Spotify playlist of transport songs and included their very catchy song "Alien in an Ambulance". Their music is thoughtful and engaging, incorporating numerous positive social messages throughout. Their latest single, "New Leaf", is an absolute gem, and is taken from their forthcoming album due for release in the new year. This truly is a feel-good track, which exudes a richness of texture and musical depth throughout.

An isolated vocal introduces the track, before a melodic keyboard infiltrates the sound, like raindrops from the sky. The song gradually builds in intensity with precision and patience, with the bass adding additional dynamics to the overall sound. The rhythm is light and sparse, allowing the melodic components of the combined instrumentation to really shine.

The middle eight features a haunting piano alongside some scintillating harmonies, which succeed in adding considerable ambience to the music, an approach that the Cocteau Twins perfected back in the eighties. Although the song is relatively short at under two minutes, there is clearly a lot going on here, with the band pulling out all the stops, although I personally would have preferred to have heard more.

The wistful vocals exude a unique sound, fortified with lyrics which serve like a stream of consciousness, with hardly a moment to pause for breath, between each new sentiment. The myriad of ideas contained in the song essentially anticipate the arrival of the new year; visualised as a beacon of hope and opportunity if we approach it in the right way. 

The lyrics also appear somewhat reflective at times, with the artist occasionally reminiscing about the past 'thinking over the last one', although we are now 'starting fresh'. The sentiment is also inclusive and not self-indulgent, where we are all invited on this musical journey 'if you put your hand in mine', because ultimately 'I want to wish you a happy, sweet new year'.

This is a quite superb piece of music, from a band who have really built a name for themselves over the years. The lyrics unravel like poetry, the arrangement is crafted with considerable expertise and the vibe is charming and optimistic. If this song is anything to go by, I'm sure the new album will be well worth a listen. This is a band clearly on top of their game, and I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.

Marsha and the Positrons - hope springs eternal.

Monday, 26 December 2022

Flash Single Review: Beppie - What Should I Wear?

Beppie is an innovative children's musician from Edmonton, Canada, and despite her relatively recent arrival on the music scene, has already released five albums to date. "What Should I Wear?" is her latest single taken from the new album "Nice To Meet You". It's a song of both power and intensity delivered with an unusual sense of irony.

The song kicks off with an electrifying guitar riff, blending nicely alongside a hypnotic drum beat, which enables the raw vitality of the vocals to take centre stage. The bass adds additional power, as the track continues to stake its claim with considerable gusto. 

The guitars are blisteringly tight and really cut through the wall of sound, with the drums sounding equally formidable and almost tribal at times. The overall vibe pays homage to the likes of the Ramones or perhaps even the Ruts, with the kind of edgy rhythm, which never lets up for a second.  This is all delivered with one final punch before the song disappears into the darkness.

On a lighter note, the lyrics highlight the various fashion options available to the artist on any given day, despite the frustrating intrusion of the elements. Whether she decides to wear a sweater in 32 degrees, or sandals and shorts when 'it's raining outside', it's going to be her decision and hers alone, and if 'people stare' she doesn't care. Her exasperation of choice can even appear angst-ridden at times, where, 'I wouldn't be surprised if I lose my mind'. 

Despite the indecisiveness seemingly on display, the irony is not lost on the listener. There's no political message here as such, or any call to action that this genre of music typically requires. Instead the artist takes the listener on a lighthearted journey into her wardrobe, and does so with noticeable relish.

This is an excellent piece of retro rock, delivered with humour, irony and even nonchalance at times. Interestingly, it is a song which provides a significant departure from much of her music, which often involves an eclectic jumble of ideas, merging into one ambitious vision. In this sense, Beppie is quite an unusual artist, never seemingly happy to stick with one style; always searching for new ideas to experiment with. An approach, which appears to apply to both her music and her wardrobe.

Beppie - the joy of dressing is an art.

Friday, 23 December 2022

Flash Single Review: The Little Wattlebird Band - Homemade Christmas Tree

The Little Wattlebird Band are a folk duo from Queensland, Australia, who craft beautiful songs inspired by both nature and the collective imaginations of children. Their combined experience in early childhood education and visual arts has inspired a selection of songs that are an absolute delight. A real standout song for me is "Homemade Christmas Tree".

If you are looking for a Christmas song, that will make you weep with joy, and send your spirit soaring through the stars then this is the song for you. An extraordinary piece of music; both captivating and uplifting in turn. A truly breath taking piece of work, evoking perhaps shades of Lou Reed without the cynicism.

The music is quite gentle and sparse with a melodic bass line underpinning the rhythm, with what sounds like a mandolin taking centre stage. The vocal blend is quite velvety and rich, with harmonies that perhaps pay homage to the pristine sweetness of Simon and Garfunkel.

The song is gentle, highly melodic, and captures the attention of the listener immediately. The harmonies are superb, adding an additional layer of resonance to the overall sound. Despite the uplifting melody, the arrangement is light and easy-going, with an execution of delivery seemingly effortless but never indifferent. 

The lyrics describe the discovery of a fallen branch, lying under a tree appearing lost and forlorn. This discovery during a warm Australian Christmas stroll, inspired the artists to 'turn that branch into a Christmas tree'. 

The duo then describe the process by which this occurs, ultimately transforming the branch into a magnificent tree that can now 'be enjoyed by everyone'. The chorus celebrates the finished product, which ultimately becomes their "Homemade Christmas Tree".

It is such a simple idea, highlighting how things need not be discarded, but can be restored with a little love and imagination. As a result, Christmas can then be celebrated in a less consumerist way. You should also check out the video, which provides a unique amalgamation of the ideas contained in the song through art, drama and live performance.

The legendary British DJ John Peel once said that his favourite songs always made him cry. Well he would have loved this song; a real tear-jerker that pulls at the heart strings, and would surely appeal to the whole family. It's also worth nothing that this song is not just for Christmas, but could be played the whole year round, such is its lyrical appeal and potent melody. 

The Little Wattlebird Band - festivity and sustainability.

Sunday, 9 October 2022

Flash Single Review: Esther Crow - Homemade Halloween

"Homemade Halloween" is the new single from the illustrious Esther Crow and it has certainly been worth the wait. The song essentially provides a narrative for sustainability, and does so in a fun yet unapologetic way.  Following fast on the heels of her most recent release "Stuff", this song truly has it all with its potent message, live instrumentation, and killer opening riffYou should also check out the video for this song, where the artist's sustainability message is recited by a singing tree.

The lyrics of the song are equally impressive, providing the kids with numerous examples of how to create their very own Halloween experience. Now it's 'time to use those magical minds', and 'take something old and make it new'. Whether this involves turning a blanket into 'monster fur' or creating a 'subway car' out of a box, we are all encouraged to get creative through using that 'artist brain'. 

Although the music appears to be wild and chaotic at times, the artist always appears to be in complete control, even allowing the song to really let rip at the end in an almost psychedelic foray into the unknown. Her ability to scan complex vocal patterns into very tight spaces also enables her to reveal her message without diluting the impact of the music.

Esther Crow is a unique artist, who manages to create musical soundscapes that intoxicate and delight in turn. Her music takes the listener on something of a rollercoaster ride, where classic rock riffs are exploited to perfection, and transformed into an originality of intent and purpose. She is an eco warrior with a clear vision, providing a narrative of sustainability and hope for future generations. She also manages to do this with both humour, and an acute awareness of pop sensibility. I just hope the song gets the recognition it truly deserves. 

Esther Crow - another slice of retro rock perfection.

Friday, 7 October 2022

Album Review: Todd'n'Tina - Dynamite!

Dynamite is the debut album of Todd'n'Tina, a family-friendly duo from Minnesota, USA. The album features ten super sounds brimming with pop sensibility and raw attitude. The music is punchy and highly melodic, and delivered with a noticeable intensity of purpose. Now I don't know if it's the old punk in me or what, but their music really ticks all the boxes for me, with its slightly retro sound delivered with power, energy and finesse.

"French Toast Day" really throws down the gauntlet with its thumping backbeat and minimalist keyboard. The vocals are released full throttle, exclaiming how every day should be a 'french toast day', and why not? Shades of the Rezillos on display, where rhythm, melody and attitude combine in a delightful piece of power pop.

"Dermatologist Assistant" bounces along in fine style, with its hypnotic piano, and infectious rhythm. The lyrics keep the listener intrigued throughout, as the artist declares 'I'm a dermatologist astronaut yes that's a thing'. The song also features some intriguing galactic sound effects to further enhance the dramatic effect. A hint of There Might Be Giants on display here, with a reciprocal vocal that is highly effective.

"Unicorns and Narwhals" informs the listener as to why these two creatures (both imaginary and real) simply 'can't be friends'. There are various reasons for this, including how 'they both have horns so nobody's going to win', and 'one likes to fly and one likes to swim'. A truly imaginative lyric, which succeeds in telling the type of story you could probably recite in a children's book. 

"Silly String" features a backing track that reminded me a bit of Cornershop's "Brimful of Asha", but this time sped up, and delivered with a touch more exuberance.  Here the message is one of classroom angst, where the lyrics recall childhood memories that are perhaps still a little raw. Nonetheless, the artist manages to transform these tortured childhood memories into a cathartic outburst of energy, where nothing really matters because 'I've got silly string'.

Apparently "Giraffes Like Peanut Butter", well who am I to disagree, although I could hazard a guess that there aren't too many songs around with a similar song title. The harmonies here are superb, and the intensity of the music typifies their sound which is uncompromising and relentless. The reciprocal vocal resurfaces again here, as does the piano, providing the glue which holds the music together.

"Panda Bear Dance" is an absolute delight, with its melodic piano, and its lively groove. So simple, yet highly effective, and easy to dance to, as long as it's not 'in your underwear'. The song has an infectious vibe which is incredibly catchy, and very easy on the ear. A real treat for the little one's who are sure to absolutely love it.

"If Darth Vader Had an iPhone" sounds like Star Wars has collaborated with Batman, and hired Frank Black to help out on vocals. Another delightful piece of power pop, which is sure to be very popular live. The song is pure twelve bar blues, and grinds away with noticeable intensity. The vocal scan is superb, and really opens up towards the end, with the chant 'go Darth Vader' providing real sing along opportunities for the kids.

"Peanut Butter Pickle Truck" bristles and shines in glorious fashion, with an exuberant piano and vociferous vocal competing for space.  The harmonies reminded me a little of the B52s, providing a melodic diversion to the relentless rhythm on display. The song then somewhat surprisingly, and seemingly out of nowhere comes to an abrupt halt. Shame, I would like to have heard more. 

"Flossing is my Hobby" is my absolute favourite track on the album, with a sound that pays homage to the new wave era of the late seventies. The music is truly exhilarating and sets a breathtaking pace, revealing its full identity in just one minute. This is a no-nonsense piece of foot stomping energy, delivered with heaps of attitude, and topped off with an absolutely mesmerising guitar solo to seal the deal. 

"Two Old Friends", finally brings the album to a close, whilst also providing a noticeable change of pace.  Here a sublime vocal delivers a delightful melody that glistens and shines throughout.  The song explores themes of friendship, conflict, resolution and ultimately hope, where as long as we are loyal to our friends we can 'find something good in each and every day'.

I really like this duo, their lyrics are original, and their sound is raw and authentic, which is somewhat refreshing in the digital age. One of the major strengths of the album is that both artists can really sing, and each deliver their message, in their own unique style. They certainly know how to engage the listener, and have managed to put together a selection of songs which are both entertaining and thought-provoking. Ultimately, this is a feel good album, it's great fun, and brilliantly executed, so if you want to brighten up your day, then give this album a spin, it truly is out of this world.

Todd'n'Tina - simply dynamite.