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.