It truly is one of the best feelings in the world when discovering an artist that you’ve never heard of before, and in the process unearthing an absolute treasure. This is exactly what happened when presented with London native Nazneen Rahman and her recently issued third major release – I’m Too Old To Die Young.
It is so rare to come across a songwriter whose content is as powerfully magnetic as it is here, the majority – if not all, for that matter – of the tracks on this LP have me locked in, listening with the highest intention and taking in her intelligently penned lyrics.
The opener Split Second has me contemplating just how much a choice can change everything in a snap, while the sublime Midlife Musings has a positive message about shaking off all your worries, to go out and make the most of your life.
The endearing Ain’t No Love Like This focuses on the joys of parenthood, Can I Be Saved touches upon the desire to step up and strive in the face of a negative situation, and it’s safe to say that Fake News speaks for itself.
The range of styles explored are really broad. You get a share of radiant pop, lavish lo-fi electronic music, beautifully easy-going lounge-esque soul, and in the case of the superb titular finale, a glorious big brass band direction.
Between the topics and the multiple genres that are covered, there is such a wide diversity to be had, with no two pieces sounding exactly alike, each offering their own values that make a positive dent, and it helps that not only are the production standards nothing short of luxurious, but Nazneen’s vocal capacity is tremendous and she is so pure, vivid and authentic in everything she sings.
This record is spectacular, hands down a key landmark of 2019. The first time I experienced it, I was left in gleaming awe, and the more that I dig deep, tear it apart and examining it attentively piece by piece, the more that I admire everything it has to offer.
Nazneen Rahman is the definition of a hidden gem, and it would only be appropriate for to start making her presence felt in the charts, because it would be nice to see some depth-laden content on there for a change, plus she thoroughly deserves to be spotlighted for her supreme talents.
IN ASSOCIATION WITH SAINT IN THE CITY
Last week, the folk at Resonate helped introduce us to Aberdeen producer Vagrant Real Estate with plenty of positive things to say about him, and after checking out his freshly released Sweetheartgrips album, those sentiments are warranted.
On the first spin, it’s like a magical mystery tour, and he delivers something effectively complementing that idea, exploring a diverse range of styles and genres – hip hop, rap, grime and the like – and constantly changing it up, constantly keeping it fresh and leaving you curious as to what else is to come on the agenda.
The vast majority of the tracks are short and snappy; he comes in, presents them, they’re wrapped up in a flash and it is on to the next, with nothing ever overstaying its welcome.
There’s a natural flow between the pieces, never being a point where the pace is broken. They’re linked together and fluently so with seamless transitions to boot, and for a compilation that lasts nearly a whole hour, it doesn’t feel it, with all the prior elements aiding in that.
Weirdly to say but this is almost meditative, a perfect listen for a bus journey, or even if you’re sitting back for a wee lounge and need to give your head a break and block out the world, then this is handy for exactly that.
The production level is of a high standard, with nothing cheap about it whatsoever, the choice of beats and samples are practical, and he brings in a variety of special guests from across the nationwide underground community, who make their mark even despite the minimal length of the cuts.
Well, it’s no surprise as to why VRE has been and still is garnering a respectable reputation, he’s clearly got a fair knack for what he does. A versatile artist who is more than capable of creating cool, divergent content that goes in multiple directions yet remains interesting, and the sooner that he’s presented with bigger opportunities that could help to expose his talents on a wider scale, the better.
London has been a hotspot for a lot of amazing bands putting out equally amazing records over the last few weeks, and here I find myself with yet another falling into my radar, and weirdly enough, it’s one with the city in their name – the internationally flavoured, globe-trotting London Afrobeat Collective, who are fresh off putting out their new record, Humans, which immediately grabs attention with Ben Hito’s dazzling, vibrant front cover alone.
Tolembi is a nice mid-tempo track to start on, serving as an ideal sampler platter of the group’s sound. It’s not a ground-shaker, but effective in warming the listener up and preparing them for the better stuff coming ahead, which doesn’t take long at all, because next is lead single Power To The Women; not only the highlight of this collection, but perhaps one of the best songs in all of 2019.
It is immensely vivid and carrying heaps of contagious energy, and at the forefront is Juanita’s wildly passionate vocal performance which brings it to a zealous life, not only sonically but in a way that draws you in to the powerful feminist lyrical content, and backing her up further is the impeccable brass trio of Andy, Edmund and Klibens, the two Alex’s titilating dual riffs and Giuliano’s furiously swift drumming.
With barely a moment to take a breath after that rush, Prime Resources continues to deliver very potent writing tackling mankind’s greedy desire to steal from other people and nature itself, plus sticking out from the crowd are the smooth basslines from John. Tokomona conspicuously calls back to the tribal Nigerian roots that their music is based around, running at a calmer pace than before while the lyrics are given space to breathe and be ingrained into the head.
Stop Talking knocks the rhythm back up a few notches, headed by Lee’s rapid bongo beats and the tenor section in full force again, also treating us to an insanely catchy chorus, and They Come And They Go keeps the fire going with an irresistible head-bobbing swing throughout. Likewise, All You Need Is Air satisfies with an awesomely captivating hook to chime along to, and finally Walk Alone makes for a strong climax where we get a fine display of Juanita busting out the poignant words at a spitfire speed.
London Afrobeat Collective have numerous vital messages that they want to broadcast to the people, they are eager for their voices to be heard, and I think they do so here in the most astonishingly entertaining fashion that they possibly could.
Humans is a sensational blast from bell to bell, and it proves that the above doesn’t need to be necessarily executed in a super serious, cynical manner. Through the power of positive, awe-inspiring music like this, the faction still manages to make a forceful statement while giving the audience something fun and engrossing in return.
Stoke alt-rockers In The Cards first came to my attention last year when they released their Eyes Beyond Reflection EP, which was solid enough but didn’t quite leave the lasting impact I was hoping for, but they recently returned with a follow-up – The Path – and I’m happy to say that it’s a different story here, because this is seriously good stuff.
You couldn’t have asked for a better opener than lead single Disguise, with the four charging in like bats out of hell and throwing everything they’ve got straight away, and as a result giving us an awesome, high-octane track with a damn fine chorus. They successfully keep the pace in check with the next offering Define Me, featuring a great, dynamic rhythm where towards the end Nathan batters out these crunchy bass chords and Danny shreds some stellar riffs.
Amy had already proved to be a sublime vocalist by this point, but it’s with Thoughts Colliding where she really gets to shine, particularly bringing a fiery passion in her singing and exhibiting the lyrical content in an effective manner, and soon they decide to tune it down for Hope Not Wisdom, a warm and melodic number to finish on that is carried by a top-notch drum beat courtesy of Conor.
The quartet have significantly stepped up their talents to another degree in order to produce a short but juicy record that without a doubt makes a staggering effect, flaunting a sound that is worthy of gracing large venues.
I first became aware of Glaswegian indie pop-rock quartet Chris Greig & The Merchants this past summer when they released their Lipstick EP, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and not long after I took the opportunity to catch the outfit live at King Tuts, which I also thoroughly enjoyed.
But after being handed a business card from Chris himself via impromptu personal messenger Craig Russell-Horne at this year’s Scottish Alternative Music Awards event, I felt it was time to give them their due with a revisit and review of their aforementioned record.
The title number starts off with a swell bass line before properly getting going and becoming quickly ingrained in the head with the most addictive of choruses possible that gives the listener a sudden burning desire to shake their hips, also establishing a tropical-esque sound that reminds me of fellow contemporaries on the scene such as Indigo Velvet and Go To Girl.
The tempo is then stepped up with the bouncy StopGo, which is highlighted by nifty riffs and riveting drum work. They keep that ball rolling into Colours, spoiling us with more exuberant hooks while Chris’ vocal game remains at an ace standard, and Talking Aloud makes for a ravishing, involved finish with memorable lyrics tailor-made to be sung along to at gigs.
Lipstick is a very appealing EP that keeps at a constant satisfying high from top to bottom, and only getting better every time. Chris Greig & The Merchants muster plenty of promise, and come recommended to anybody who fancies some music that sticks a smile on their face.
The Welsh scene has been absolutely killing it in 2019, and here we have yet another worthy act making a statement: The Montagues, who a couple of months dropped their debut EP – Calibrate.
The guys dash in totally guns blazing with You Got It All, being quick to spark a high energy that is on full throttle through the blinding chorus. Side To Side doesn’t quite have that same fire to it, but it’s another good track regardless, where the rhythm section get a chance to shine with slick basslines and catchy drum beats.
Devils proceeds at a breezy pace while entertaining the audience with cool guitar licks. The title track finally recaptures the measure of the opening belter, lighting up with an infectiously buoyant melody, spirited harmonies and a series of great riffs.
Lastly is Nothing To Everything, which keeps the momentum on a roll as the group amplify their sound further yet, pushing themselves to their limits and making their exit with a dynamic bang.
Overall, this is a fantastic rock record which does a top-rate job in bringing the excitement, also featuring this pop substance that gives their content a mainstream appeal that an audience who fancy their share of radio-friendly stuff will surely get a kick out of.
Admittedly, it would have been nice to see them expand their sound a little bit more, as they do notably play it safe, but I’m free to let it slide as this is a first effort after all, and an enjoyable one at that which is likely only a snippet of what The Montagues could potentially explore and execute in future releases.
FAULTRESS – 5 Myths
It’s a sensational feeling when an artist comes along and is able to take on a journey through their music that completely blocks the world around you and has you stuck in and utterly captivated. That very feat was achieved by London native Faultress courtesy of her forthcoming EP – 5 Myths.
Marilyn has barely begun by the time it has already hooked me in with its magnetically gorgeous aura, amplified by the polished bells dotted around. The artist is also quick to establish her greatest asset: a supremely divine voice that just latches on with a fierce effect.
Sanctuary is more muted, resetting the mood with a thick atmosphere bass tone which is eventually accompanied by low-note synths, and the writing starts to truly make an impact as I find myself being totally entranced by what is being said.
A key recurring theme throughout the content is the battle against mental health, and that is especially apparent with Beating Heart, in this case highlighting how it can subtly change and break down a person in the eyes of a loved one.
Icarus is another dazzling piece with a hooking chorus, and last but certainly not least, Hood&Wolf gets the hairs standing on end with a deeply haunting atmosphere while Faultress serenades and ropes in the listener once more as she caustically and effectively dives into the of female sexuality in society.
5 Myths thoroughly impresses on an instrumental level alone, but it’s the fantastic singing and reeling, thought-provoking lyrics that elevate this into an outstanding EP that serves as the perfect display of what this obviously gifted woman is capable of. Faultress is a name that cannot afford to be skipped on.
***AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 8TH NOVEMBER***
IN ASSOCIATION WITH LOST IN THE MANOR
Self-proclaimed “cabarock” outfit Scunner are a Glasgow band I’ve admired for a few years now, but feel like I’ve not given them the attention that they deserve. Luckily, I have an excuse to do so now, because they have a new EP out titled Witches, covering the subject of…well, witches, and the group present it in their usual delightful manner.
The banjo and jaw harp combo of the first song, Paisley Witches, help to form this addictive rhythm with an overpowering hillbilly quality which, when partnered with Paul’s enticing vocals and the amusing lyrics, helps to give the track a fittingly surreal essence and make this the defining highlight of the package.
Dead Buzzed is certainly a lot more melodic and hooks you in with its bouncy pulse coming courtesy of the catchy beat and sweet guitar work, and finally, Doric Witches is even simpler sound-wise, but nonetheless entertains with a nimble pace, good riffs and solid harmonies.
While visibly finishing on a weaker degree compared to how they started, this is still, as expected, a peculiarly charming record where Scunner deliver their trademark kookiness through a short yet entertaining trio of eccentric numbers.
MANDALAI LAMAS – Here Come The Mandalai Lamas
I can always rely on Norway to provide some of the most interesting music to come out of Europe, and today’s subject is no different: the charmingly named Mandalai Lamas from Halden, with their upcoming debut album simply titled Here Come The Mandalai Lamas.
The band claim to be primarily influenced by 1960’s psychedelic rock, and that is certainly clear here – even the mixing and mastering has that old-school tinge to it – but honestly it goes further than that, as they (consciously or not) manage to pull in elements of modern indie, prime era Britpop and even a light dash of blues in a few spots.
We’re treated to these straightforward yet still effective, catchy rhythms featuring some cool beats, top-notch keys and a triad of cracking riffs each making a damn fine contribution, not to mention we get some pretty good dual vocals.
Among the bunch of numbers, the most notable highlights include the hip-shaking All Night, the smooth grooving China Girl and the radically rollicking I Don’t Know What To Do With My Life.
Being frank, there isn’t much in the way of anything particularly deep or even that original, especially on the lyrical side of things, but the well-executed surface level content is more than enough for me, so on the whole, The Mandalai Lamas’ first full-length effort earns a solid recommendation.
***AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 1ST NOVEMBER***
In 2018, Midlands group The Unawake State came to my attention with their State Of Heart EP which left a decent impression, but earlier this year, they returned with a full-length album titled Future Shock, and it was clear that they had stepped up their game.
Light Of Day gets a bounce on the go with a zestful melody and mix of sweet keys and guitar chords. Likewise, OOBR has a great beat to it and features humbly toned vocal work, swell keys and a pretty good solo thrown in the middle, but Lowlifes In High Places is where their sound is at its juiciest, forming the ideal pop-rock balance by splicing the best elements of either side, giving us something light and catchy yet rugged and aggressive at the same time.
Instantly standing out in Retrospect are the thick basslines and tubular synths, and the chorus is something to die for. Tell The Kids Destroy keeps the excitement going, before making way for a surprisingly enjoyable rendition of I’ll Make A Man Out Of You from Disney’s Mulan
While a couple of songs aren’t quite up to scratch and sort of fall by the wayside to a point where I can’t really comment on them, the rest of the record comes together nicely as quite the entertaining collection of tracks with plenty of elements that click and providing a solid amount of substance for listeners to sink their teeth into.