Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Flash Single Review: Gee Up! - Poco Drom

You better buckle up for this one, because the latest single "Gee Up!" from Poco Drom is an absolute stormer of a track, where electronica pumps up the volume with earth shattering intensity. This song is really out there, an extraordinary piece of high-energy music, which firmly establishes this UK artist as a major new talent.

This song would stand out on any playlist; it literally hits you over the head from the start, where an explosive rhythm, releases the type of raw energy that would be celebrated on any dance floor. The song also features some dreamy and wistful backing vocals, providing additional texture to the overall sound. 

Despite it's electronic appeal, the song works equally well, when played on an acoustic guitar and stripped down to its bare essentials.  I know this because I've seen it on YouTube, and you should check it out to.

Despite the artist being something of an eco warrior, living off the grid, and adopting an alternative lifestyle, there is no specific message here as such. The song simply describes the rapturous thrill of a hectic horse ride. The listener is then left hanging on for dear life, as the music shifts through the gears, with an explosive chorus repeating the words 'gee up, gee up' through a melting microphone. This could be an imaginary or real journey, either way, the song works through its fusion of power and simplicity, which never lets up for a second.

All in all, a superb track, which is as original as it is appealing. Here, Hot Butter meets the Cocteau Twins, with a little help from Lenny Kravitz on the way. A fabulous fusion of eclectic musical styles, which merge together in one moment of sheer magic. Poco Drom is clearly worth keeping your eye on, and may indeed be a dark horse for future greatness, who knows? Watch this space.

Poco Drom - high energy with a smile.

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Flash Single Review: Try Try Again - Professor Jefferson Band

Professor Jefferson Band are a four-piece band from the USA, who write educational songs for children, and do so with tremendous expertise. Their most recent release "Try Try Again" is something of a quirky classic, featuring lyrics which regard failure as an opportunity, and not something to be feared. The cover sleeve features a picture of non other than Thomas Edison himself, who you may be aware regarded failure as an essential part of the creative process. 

He was in good company as Samuel Beckett, Confucius and Sumner Redstone all believed misfortune to be a prerequisite to success, as long as you don't give up on the way. The fact is, those who never failed never did anything, and this sentiment is outlined superbly here, where harmonica blends with acoustic guitar to create a song earnest in message, but nonetheless upbeat and very catchy. 

The bass playing is excellent throughout, and the drums kick like a mule. The vocals are superb, assisted by lyrics which are warm and informative, providing solace to all those sensitive souls who might be afraid to have a go.  The Smiths experimented with a similar idea in the eighties with their famous hit "Ask," but this song discards the petulant sarcasm of Morrisey, and offers instead, heartfelt sincerity and genuine room for growth.

The harmonica takes centre stage on the chorus, adding further dynamics; hitting the target in almost Dylanesque fashion. The lyrics appear somewhat conversational at times, revealing the type of dialogue that might occur between a caring parent and a sensitive child. Despite this didactic approach, the song is very catchy, and loaded with pop sensibility.

This band truly are the thinking person's rock 'n' roll. They somehow manage to merge sublime musicianship, with a cerebral approach that easily resonates with the listener.   An absolute gift for teachers or parents, trying to find the right message to motivate children.

Professor Jefferson Band - cerebral rock.

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Flash Single Review: Catch Me If You Can - Lah-Lah

As a music teacher and musician I have always admired Lah-Lah's commitment to educating children about the joys of live music making. Bearing this in mind, a notification for their latest single just popped into my Insta feed so I thought it was about time I further investigated this band and their impressive back catalogue. The latest track "Follow Me" is great fun, but it was the earlier single "Catch Me If You Can" that really caught my attention. It certainly is an appropriate title considering how catchy the tune is.

The song lays down the gauntlet right from the start beginning with an almost declarative outburst of the chorus, before the verse really kicks in with some verve. Here a lively keyboard fuses with a bass line that pays homage to Peter Hook. The song is upbeat and intoxicating and really captures the attention of the listener with its steady hypnotic vibe.  Here electronica fuses with pop opera where Kate Bush teams up with Sarah Brightman and employ New Order to come up with a backing track.

There's an interesting diversion during the middle eight, where a staccato keyboard breaks up the rhythm pattern, providing temporary respite, before we return to the groove with some vengeance. Additional instrumentation is included towards the end to further build the intensity, before everything is eventually stripped out, to finish as we began. Poetic justice, or simply an interesting arrangement, I'll let you be the judge of that.

This is a truly great song, and is one of many classic tracks that Lah-Lah's Big Live Band have been involved in over the years. It is punchy, melodic and easy to dance to. The vocals are bright and piercing, and lead the song in fine style. Lah-Lah truly is one of Australia's finest exports, with their growing reputation now reaching across the globe. You really need to check out the band's back catalogue, there are plenty more where this one came from.

Lah-Lah - songs to learn and sing.

Saturday, 4 September 2021

Single Review: Everyday Heroes - Music With Michal and Claudia Robin Gunn

Well Christmas came early for me this year as I was lucky enough to receive a pre-release copy of "Everyday Heroes" the new single from two giants of independent music, Michal Amy Bush (Music with Michal) and Claudia Robin Gunn. These two inspirational artists have collaborated to create a song that is both educational and entertaining. The tone is upbeat and optimistic, and spreads a message of gratitude for all the essential workers out there doing their best to keep us all safe in these uncertain times.

The opening four bars draw the listener in immediately, with elements of the Police classic "Message In a Bottle" on display. The lyrics are compelling and highly effective, and effortlessly stay on topic throughout. The song is essentially a celebration of essential workers, whether this is postal workers, teachers or nurses, they are all 'heroes' here, with the listener consistently encouraged to 'come and celebrate them all with me'. 

Unsurprisingly, it is the vocals that are the real stand out, and in particular the musical blend of these two superb artists; who combine with breathtaking clarity. We are also treated to some endearing children's voices during the break, who contribute to the growing list of essential workers before finally declaring them as 'everyday heroes'. This warm embrace between the enthusiastic outbursts of the children and the wistful backing vocals of the artists brings a certain sense of vulnerability and charm to the track. The melodic diversion that follows is similarly effective, and cements the central idea that 'if we work together we can keep each other safe'.

The overall arrangement features a highly melodic bass, a hypnotic drum pattern, and some nimble guitar work throughout, constantly searching for space to add additional melody to the track. Towards the end the instrumentation is removed almost entirely, with just the drums and the vocals left to carry the message. Here the song takes on an anthemic tone, inviting the listener to sing along and celebrate these every day heroes 'who make the world go round and round'. 

These two artists clearly understand the power of dynamics, where all the instrumentation is then reintroduced for a final flourish, alongside a sumptuous vocal blend, cleverly adapted to bring the verse and chorus together. It leaves the listener feeling both inspired and informed, and does so with a melody as sprightly and engaging as anything you're likely to hear.

All in all a fabulous song, delivered with tremendous expertise and skill. The message is compelling and delivered with both style and substance. I take my hat off to these two superb artists who have delivered the world a much needed boost, and done so with both flair and imagination. This song is certainly going to be the number one song on my playlist, and you should make it yours too. Also make sure you check out the official YouTube video where, due to the wonders of modern technology, the artists still manage to perform 'together' despite the current lockdown in New Zealand.

Music with Michal and Claudia Robin Gunn - a match made in heaven.

Friday, 27 August 2021

Video Review: Slow Down - Animal Farm

Animal Farm are a quartet from Chicago, who perform a colourful blend of music, storytelling and comedy suitable for children of all ages.  "Slow Down" is taken from their latest album, and is something of a melodic masterpiece. The song highlights the problems we all face in a hectic and fast-paced world. The solution is provided through the metaphorical journey of a snail, who despite his obvious limitations, always finds time to appreciate the beauty that surrounds him each and every day. 

The video is an allegorical portrayal of this journey, where the snail moves slowly across the screen staring up at the lyrics that appear on the screen above. Here, the snail shuffles his body in time to a double bass groaning away in the background, accompanied by some delicate interplay between guitar and violin.  The snail, we are informed, takes his time 'because the roses are oh so sweet', and of course he has 'no particular place to go'.  The lead vocal is sublime, and reminded me a little of Smokey Robinson. 

The verse creates the necessary space to launch the chorus, which explodes in a psychedelic cacophony of sound that is both enticing and seductive in turn. The melody is like something Coldplay might come up with on a good day, with the lyrics questioning 'how can anyone notice this beautiful world if they won't just slow down'. Additional impact is portrayed in the video which displays an array of buildings and vehicles spinning round in a circular motion, which appear to represent the planet.

The snail meanwhile ponders this predicament, incredulous, and resolute, encompassing the visual representation of what is required. Further metaphors of snail mail, which may take 'three to five days', are also featured with a number of signed, sealed and delivered envelopes floating across the screen in turn. These are then swiftly replied to with speedy texts that clearly don't get the message. Speed is further represented in the video by cheetahs and eagles who are impressive, but of no concern to the snail who is quite happy 'chilling on the garden floor'.

The song then once again explodes into another uplifting chorus, swimming in melancholy, and pining with a certain nostalgia for the way things were.  The lyrics further emphasise the central message of the song, that you can ultimately never be happy if this state of affairs continues. 

The video then portrays footsteps on the screen representing movement, and at this point the musical depth and lyrical potency of the song, rekindle memories of Pink Floyds "On The Run", or perhaps "Time" from "The Dark Side of the Moon". Yes, you heard me, that's right Pink Floyd, so if the band are trying to reach all age groups they are on the right track here.

A wonderful song, an inspiring video, a tremendous message, and beautiful musicanship performed throughout. Animal Farm really cut the mustard when it comes to highlighting problems, finding solutions, and entertaining us in the process. All in all, three minutes of sheer magic that deserves your immediate attention.

Animal Farm - live in the moment.

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Flash Single Review: It's So Easy Being Green - Esther Crow

"It's So Easy Being Green" is the fabulous new single from Esther Crow an award-winning songwriter from New York City, and founding member of post-punk rockers The Electric Mess. In addition to being an environmental warrior, she is also a teacher and part-time actor, although where she gets the time, I have no idea. I came across this song recently when I was browsing through Spotify, and I was absolutely blown away by the potency of the lyric and the power and precision of the music.

The song incorporates a delightful call and response technique, where a series of environmental challenges are brought to our attention, and are then disarmed with noticeable flair and lyrical dexterity. Whether this involves 'picking up bottles on the beach', or eating 'more veggies less meat', there are a variety of solutions on display.   Incidentally, it is none other than the artist's son Vincent, who steps in to pose these dillemas, ensuring that the song is indeed a truly family affair. 

The music has wonderful energy, and further benefits from a slightly sixties flavouring, where jangly guitars meet inspired vocal melodies to complete the three chord magic. The vocals are clear, nonchalant and easy to decipher, revealing perhaps a slight Dylan influence on occasions. The chorus sums up the sentiment succinctly,  informing the listener to 'save the planet change your habits', a message that I'm sure we would all support.  

This is a truly great song, where somehow the artist has managed to cram copious ideas into a tight space, and yet still come up shining with pop sensibility. The bass and drums are tight and punchy, with the music at times slightly reminiscent of Blondie at their best, which is no bad thing. The music is loaded with attitude, and despite the charming melodic content, you can hear the gutsy post-punk New York delivery just beneath the surface. 

This artist is pure class, she has a fantastic message, a great sound, a superb band, and a fabulous generosity of spirit. Perhaps most importantly, she has delivered a song for our times, and done so with style, substance and certainty.

Esther Crow - positive punk.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

EP Review: Itty Bitty Bubbles - Itty Bitty Beats

Itty Bitty Beats is the brainchild of Jenny Payne and Lucy Hiku, an award-winning musical duo from New Zealand. Since their formation in 2014, they have delivered their own brand of unique children's pop, attaining global appeal and deservedly so. They are indeed as prolific as they are entertaining, and their new EP Itty Bitty Bubbles features six original compositions, propelling the listener on a sea of nostalgia through a charming fusion of sprightly melodies, luscious harmonies and superb production.

The EP opens in fine form with the gentle and endearing title track, featuring some intricate guitar work, a joyful vocal delivery, and a mesmerising array of sounds. The delivery is sweet and uplifting, and has a noticeable sixties influence. It is a song guaranteed to transform the darkest of moods, with its delightful melody and singalong chorus. The appeal of the song lies in its innocent simplicity and its world class vocal delivery, which really has to be heard to be believed.

"Bubble Shop" blasts out of the speakers in true Chuck Berry style, with a sparse rhythm providing the necessary space for some truly inspiring guitar playing. The song is again simple and effective, with lyrics describing the prosaic act of purchasing bubbles, where we 'drop our coins on the counter shop',  to buy some 'bubbles for me and bubbles for you'. The song celebrates the joy children find in the simplest of things, whilst also further reminding us of the magic appeal of bubbles to children.

"Blowing Bubbles With My Teddy Bear" begins with a hypnotic piano, sitting alongside a wistful vocal, which repeats the song title very effectively. The keyboard solo is quite superb and reminded me a little of the late Ray Manzerak. The lyrics are very descriptive throughout, and 'rise like steam and fall like rain' towards the end, delivered with a vocal performance that would sit comfortably on a Janice Joplin album.

"Bubble Storm" begins with an atmospheric flourish before it transforms itself into a kind of Walt Disney ditty. Here we are informed that 'you don't need an umbrella in a bubble storm', because in this world the 'bubble storm' is welcomed and is indeed something to be treasured. The song includes an inspired string section, providing additional rhythm and atmosphere, as the lyrics continue to remind us that instead of 'lightning there's laughter, ' and their role is in 'spreading cheer' not fear. When I heard the song it reminded me of fifties American movies, with maybe Gene Kelly playing a starring role, where life was perhaps less complex, and children were less reliant on technology for their entertainment.

"Blowing Bubbles in My Bath Tub', bounces along in fine style with some delightful harmonies, that support the melody throughout superbly. The bass and drums create the space for the clinical clarity of the guitar solo paying homage to Bill Haley along the way. The song is pure rhythm and blues, delivered with a lyrical flavouring specially for the kids, where we get to 'splash and splash' as we blow 'bubbles in my bath tub'.

The EP finishes with the very impressive '"I Love Watching Bubbles"', where strings meet harmony with a warm embrace. A very emotive ballad, with a melancholy delivery which describes the simple act of observing bubbles through the eyes of a child who gets to watch 'bubbles day and night'. Again the harmonies are breathtaking, and would even give the Everly Brothers a run for their money.

If you're a fan of Simon and Garfunkel, Herman's Hermits, the Zombies or the type of guitar licks that made Chuck Berry famous then you will absolutely love this EP. The band take us on a trip down memory lane, capturing a retro vibe, and catapulting it in to the twenty-first century. The lyrics are aimed squarely at the kids, and succeed in igniting their infinite imaginations. In essence, the EP takes the listener on a musical journey where the bubbles are identified, then purchased then blown, before being described and finally observed. The EP succeeds in creating a world where imagination is king, and fear dissipates 'in a bubble storm'.  

Itty Bitty Beats - back to the future.