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.

Saturday, 3 July 2021

Flash Single Review: It's OK 2 Be Me - Twinkle Time

The new single, "It's OK 2 Be Me", from Twinkle Time has finally dropped and seemingly from outer space, because this is unlike anything you've ever heard. Here Madonna meets Van Halen, with the most extraordinary fusion of rock and pop you're ever likely to hear. The song is delivered with heaps of attitude, and a compelling lyric, which encourages individuality and in particular how 'it's okay to be different'.

The song literally explodes right from the start, with an electric blend of guitar and keyboard that takes no prisoners. With a pulsating bass line and a hypnotic drum beat, the music creates the necessary energy for the vocals to really shine. The vocal is clear and melodic, but delivered with the type of angst that literally screams out of the speakers. It's almost as if the artist is angry at the limitations of a judgemental world, and sings with a cathartic outburst of defiance. 

However, it is the overall message which is the real standout, with the listener encouraged  to 'take your fears and throw them away', before being treated to a truly uplifting chorus which reminded me a little of EMF at their best. Despite the song's electric arrangement, like many great songs it would probably sound equally good played on an acoustic guitar or a piano. 

Twinkle doesn't care what you look like, but what she does care about is that young people appreciate 'just how special' they can be if they realise 'it's ok 2 be me'. In under three minutes this track could affect both the mood and outlook of young people, who may feel vulnerable in an era dominated by the pressures of the modern age. Here, the artist has taken the gloves off, and finds herself fighting for a kinder world for the next generation. This is a truly brilliant song, which is superbly executed, and on this form Twinkle is clearly the most exciting children's entertainer on the planet.

Twinkle Time - the gloves are off.

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Flash Single Review: Germs - Story Surprise

Story Surprise
 are a lively, energetic and engaging duo from Melbourne, Australia. They have released two singles to date with a new song dropping this Saturday. Although, they have only been around for a relatively short time, they have already made quite an impact on the children's entertainment scene, and are now set to take the world by storm. Their recent single "Germs" was written in response to the COVID outbreak, and highlights the importance of keeping germs at bay.

We're now back in lockdown in many parts of Australia, so this song is no doubt as relevant as ever. The music is sprightly and lighthearted, and manages to convey a serious message in a fun and stimulating way. There is no shortage of detailed instructions either, where fun actions collide with hygiene so that the children are encouraged to 'jump into the sky', and 'wave those germs goodbye'.

The song has a stop and start type of feel, where the instructions are blasted out in perfect harmony. The backing vocals have a noticeable 1950s influence, which add a certain retro flavouring to the tune. Coming in at just over two minutes, the song is short, sweet and to the point, with the action never letting up for a minute. I'm reliably informed that the chorus comes in at twenty seconds which is the recommended length of time to spend washing your hands, making it the perfect song for little people.

Well, maybe I'm biased because these performers are Australian, but I love this duo, they are great fun, and effortlessly spin their wonderful brand of optimistic melodies with tremendous enthusiasm. They provide a breath of fresh air to the children's music scene, and if you could bottle their energy you'd be all the better for it. 

Story Surprise - energy, excitement and enthusiasm.