Marketing is a lucrative facet for music promotion that not enough acts in this industry utilise to its full potential. Michael Lovett, the key wiz behind the London-based NZCA Lines project, clearly has an eye for that sort of thing.
One day, I was scrolling through my social feeds, then suddenly my focus is drawn towards this glamorously well-dressed man within a colourful void without a bottom half, instead various bits of rubbish flowing out from the middle of him.
That was my first encounter with Michael, and it certainly worked, for soon thereafter, I checked him out and discovered his freshly released debut full-length album – Pure Luxury – and I was set for life.
The title track greets us, and holy moly, talk about making an impression. Bursting through the speakers, Michael radiates an insane amount of shining confidence and charisma in his stellar voice pretty reminiscent of a certain Prince fellow. His partner in crime Sarah’s infectiously groovy drum beats are amazing, further adding a catchiness and energy to the music, and she undoubtedly remains a major positive factor throughout this record.
The joy intensifies as they smoothly slide into Real Good Time, emanating the coolest sound imaginable, linking drips and drabs of modern pop with the least subtle influences of prime funk, and the assemble of various vocals are unbelievably good. Prisoner Of Love is up next, taking it calm in the tender, low-bass verses before the brilliant chorus takes over which features juicy profuse synths, and the lyrics are easy to be fold of.
For Your Love is utterly pleasant, mainly owed to the lovely strings and neat pianos, and Michael is formidably magnetic in his performance, simply having you in the palm of his hand from start to finish. VIAA makes a guest appearance here and her input is great, further boosting an already high-quality song. The style shifts again in Take This Apart, stripping back the majority of the instrumentation and going down an ambient road while the writing ranks at its best yet, maintaining a tight grip on you.
The exotic dance-inducing sensibilities made a grand return in Opening Night, peaking with a bloody extraordinary keyboard solo that is worthy of the gods. Larsen is a real solid addition with a glowing pulse, Primp & Shine has such a beautifully thick, electronic-soaked air, and unfortunately we reach the end, but they go out with a bang courtesy of the suave and wavy Tonight Is All That Really Matters.
Pure Luxury, as far as I’m concerned, is perfect. It’s a rich, abundant treasure trove full to the brim with these awesome pieces that are flawlessly crafted and plentiful in their variety, and it’s nigh impossible to come out of it not smiling like an absolute fool. NCZA Lines is the future of British pop music, simple as that.
When discussing Scottish bands who are considered small yet harness a major, dedicated following, Edinburgh folk-rock quartet Wrest are one of the most notable in that category.
Despite not being around long, the guys are welcomed with love and affection from all corners whenever a new release hits the market, but somehow they have still to break through the ceiling into mainstream attention.
Frankly, that distinction needs to change, and it’s about time they become weaved into the public conscious, starting with extra focus on their latest EP – A World That Has Left You Unspoken.
They make their satisfying entrance with Waiting For Poetry; very warm and smooth, forceful in its atmosphere, clutching you with the firmest grip, and they slowly build up and up, elevating the scope as they continue and get you even more entranced.
Without as much of a break of pace, they wander into the first of the singles, A Perfectly Spherical World, outlined by really wonderful, sensitive writing brought alive by a supreme vocal performance; the sound meanwhile concocted by a series of sharp notes and a silky fine rhythm.
The second of the singles follows, Blood, and it is the most magnificent number thus far, displaying this pure, cinematic essence that gives it this wonderous, graceful size which ignites a dazzling fire within the minds and bodies of the audience, fuelling them with an intoxicating sense of passion
The dial is turned in the opposite direction for Hello Indigo, which is a lot more reserved and sophisticated, connecting on a raw emotional level with another swell lyrical exhibition, and one last wholly coordinated transition later, we come to the closer, Universe Around You, which retains the previous effective qualities to provide a pleasant finale.
Wrest have done it again with another outstanding musical creation that has you soaring and shifting through a plethora of feelings in the midst of these broad soundscapes, before leaving you with total contentment after it finishes.
In 2014, Hertfordshire alternative metal outfit Defences burst onto the scene with the Stitches In Sanity EP, and I felt they had made a solid first impression, and I became aware of a hidden potential lurking underneath. 2017, they brought out the With Might And Main album, and stepped it up a gear.
Now we come to 2020, the group dish out another EP entitled Thoughts That Keep You Awake – compiling the singles they released across the prior year – and it’s with this one I believe that they realised their potential, producing something out of this world.
The intro piece Upon Waking draws you in with little effort, utilising magnetic ambience drones, faint string sounds, and a mixture of light harmony chimes and deep breaths; eventually, and smoothly so, transitioning into the beginning of Shatter, before breaking down into the satisfying heaviness.
We see William trading his gruff, formidable screams with Cherry’s fantastic singing, both of whom are equally putting in a fervent effort, and they do amazingly in conveying the gripping, inspiring lyrics detailing the war against self-doubt, urging yourself to stand up from mental defeat, and to get back and fight with a greater extra-strengthened inner desire than ever before. Oh, and it must be said that the last of the many breakdowns is a stormer.
They blast through What You Know with an intoxicating sense of energy, and in the middle of it we have an absolutely outstanding chorus which is so powerful and full of life, meshing in stellar-level performances from everybody; lusty dual vocals, really good guitars from Calum, sweet electronic effects and a forcible, gut-smashing rhythm forged by Ian and Kyle.
The massive scale and buzz only remain scalding hot as they dive into Over, opting to go in a more melodic direction this time around. Among the best qualities, the lyrics again make a mark, and it must be said that William is on insane form here, especially in one sequence where he spits words at a brisk pace.
The final number In Eclipse commences on a considerably settled note – a nice opportunity to catch your breath – initially quiet before they continue to rock the joint in their regular manner, and throughout Cherry reels you in with a loving message to spark much needed hope “in the darkest hour”.
An unreal collection of superb tracks that manages the rare feat of blowing you away on a sonic level as much as it identifies with you on a pure emotional level. It’s been a pleasure to witness Defences consistently rise up the ranks, year by year, and surely it can’t be long before they break through the ceiling towards mainstream success.
Recently, ReverbNation approached me with the proposition to run a campaign for Small Music Scene in order to help give some of the acts on their brimming platform an opportunity for exposure.
Always eager to discover new talent – being the entire point of this website – I said yes, and the response has been overwhelming to say the least, and the very first to grab my attention was Nashville artist Jacob Melton via his self-titled album.
Straight off the bat, the lead single 90 Proof And Smooth radiates with this cool, stylish vibe – the backing “oooh’s” elevating that fact – and as for Jacob himself, he has a clear air of confidence coming through a fantastic voice that any major label would be smart enough to gush over, and the chorus is just plain excellent.
Anymore is a nice romantic tune defined by an appealing sound where neat acoustics are mixed in with dashing electric chords. The riffs are even sweeter in Concrete Rodeo, and the energy is utterly lively and infectious; I defy anybody who listens to this one without being enveloped by dancing fever in some shape or form.
From a lyrical standpoint, Live This Lie is certainly among the most engaging, where Jacob is brutally honest and willing to acknowledge the harsh truth, and you even get a hint of shameful regret lingering in his voice.
Keepin’ On is very compelling in its own right, which has him examining his faults and mistakes, but he is grateful for his partner for accepting those downfalls and still devotedly loving him, even encouraging him to stand tall and, as the title suggests, keep on running.
Capping off with the proudly spirited How I’m Made, Jacob Melton’s record is a well compiled one that is fresh enough in its variety, serves as an ideal display of the musician’s multiple talents, and has a broad mainstream appeal to it with the ability to easily draw in a large audience from far and wide.
Bristol “melancholic pop” duo Yard Arms are quite an overlooked act in my eyes. Last year, the Glossary Of Broken Humans & Beating Hearts EP served as a satisfactory gateway, and now they’re already back with an even more fulfilling follow-up contained in Sanctuary Lines.
A sleek guitar riff welcomes us into Mantra, and that continues through what is a pretty beautiful number that is incredibly nice and serene in its sonic tone. On top of that, the harmonies are fresh and sublime, and help get you attached with little problem.
Those same feelings carry over into the symphonically tinged Silicone Crowd, donning more of an engaging energy this time around through a lively melody as well as a couple of sequences where the singing is stepped up to another zestful notch.
These Four Walls is a pure dazzler, with the overall scope being expanded and the passion coming through in waves – the chorus showcasing this in delightful fashion – plus the riveting guitar work and good drum beats help add to the rush, and the lyrics are great.
And lastly is Fables, which is undeniably the most emotionally provoking selection of the lot, with a humble vibe to it, captivating writing, gutsy singing, and a tremendous final sequence.
If you fancy getting yourself acquainted with Yard Arms, then this is a worthy starting point. The two guys evidently have a musically tight bond, with the result of their chemistry being splendid, attentively-produced content that is entertaining and, more importantly, wholesomely invigorating.
After nearly a decade and a half together on the circuit, Orange Country ensemble Half Past Two have rightfully carved out a distinction as one of the most respectable, reliable genre-bending ska groups still on the go, and the Something Blue EP is yet another notch in their extensive arsenal.
Triumphantly coming in to a spunky sax solo, the first of the originals Lyin’ Eyes is an elegantly paced tune that they ease through at a relaxed groove, and while sonically simple, the singing is wonderful, and the lyrics are pretty memorable.
See You Again is definitely the peppier of the tracks, hopping along to an exuberant rhythm underneath a fun melody hoisted by the pairing of sweet guitars and brass, and the singing is even more lively than before, and as an added bonus, they perform a lovely, tight rendition of The Beatles’ I Will.
It might only be a brief distraction, but it’s a quenching record nonetheless that leaves a smile on your face, and given this act’s veteran expertise, does that really come as a surprise?
So it recently came to my attention that a humble alternative rock quartet named Lost Like Lions were making a solid killing in the New York scene at the moment – well…as much as they can, given the current circumstances – and The Devil That You Know EP validates exactly why.
They arrive into Something Else nice and easy, after which they burst out into a colourful, extremely hooking chorus made better by fine writing and great vocals. Run Away has more of a melodic kick to it, with the addition of slick guitar skills and a great rhythm, and they cap off with the sweet and lyrically riveting Enemies.
It’s short, but it’s a pretty tidy record on hand here. It does suffer from a lack of variety and the guys maybe playing it too safe, with very little in the way of branching out here. But saying that, there’s nothing inherently wrong here, as the guys showcase their very capable abilities through a trio of entertaining numbers, and if willing to extend their reach, they could develop into an even greater band.
BLACK LESION – Mindless Feeding Device
Although lurking in the Scottish scene for a couple of years, Edinburgh hard rock trio Black Lesion are only now starting to come out of the woodwork to make themselves known, and a respectable debut EP is always helpful in creating a worthwhile impression; in this case, Mindless Feeding Device.
Anomaly is a nice starter for ten, being relatively straight forward with solid riffs, a decent chorus, and a fair amount of power riding behind it, with the focal point being a rushing drum solo towards the end.
The force and energy starts to slowly but surely ramp up in Lesion, complete with hardened bass tones throughout, and the writing of Sins has plenty of intrigue to it, and the second half dissolves into a rollicking, high-octane riot.
Straight off the bat, Formless kindles a buzz, particularly with the smashing guitar work which remains on consistently fantastic form, and the impetus stays very much alive as they deliver an awesome, jam-packed climax with The Cause.
Although it begins at a so-so degree, Mindless Feeding Device improves with each respective track. There’s a natural evolving progress with it getting better as they step up their performances, and by the end, you’re fulfilled. A commendable first effort from Black Lesion, and if able to expand upon their talents as they go along, we could be on to something special here.
AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 14TH AUGUST!