The ten track album, Giving In To You, which the artist herself describes as, “…a collection of songs written during a period of restlessness” exhibits an exciting, diverse alternative sound; blending the acoustic with the electric. ‘Intro’ sets up a soothing gateway into the album, with its echoing backing vocals and explorative lyrics: “Tell me what you aim to find, in the corners of my mind.”
This bleeds seamlessly into the following track, ‘Comfortable Enough’, continuing with the poetic structure of the lyrics and isolated falsettos.
To contrast this, there are songs such as ‘Where Will I Go?’ which focuses more on the electronic element of Kitty’s sound; with remnants of Coldplay’s ‘Midnight’ from their enigmatic album Ghost Stories. The chorus sings out in heavenly harmonies, making for a captivating listen.
It’s understandable why there’s a palpable sense of excitement around Kitty O’Neal and the next stage of evolution for her sound. With such a strong and stunning debut, keep your ears open, for I’m sure Kitty O’Neal is an artist who will soon be dominating our airwaves.
You can connect with Kitty on her social media channels:
Bat Out of Hell, the enigmatic second album of Meatloaf, an album that has been certified fourteen times platinum and still stands today as a fundamental benchmark for classic rock.
The show of the same name, written by Grammy award-winning lyricist, composer and record producer, Jim Steinman, is a dynamic story, set in the desolate city of Obsidian. Here, the streets are roamed by The Lost, a group of teenagers forever frozen at the age of eighteen. The leader of which, Strat, (played by Andrew Polec) falls in love with Raven (played by Christina Bennington), daughter of Falco, the tyrannical ruler of Obsidian.
The show has already gathered rapturous reactions across the UK and overseas, having premiered at the Manchester Opera House in February of last year, it then travelled on to the London Coliseum, across the globe to Toronto, before settling in at its current home at the Dominion Theatre this April.
Jay Schieb’s direction is fast-paced and furious with energy. The joy onstage is completely infectious, rippling through the audience and resulting in raucous cheers of applause song after song.
Visually, the show is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, on stage hand-held camera crews capturing moments which are projected onto various screens in the theatre, added to the fantastical, dream-like feel of the production. It also does wonders as a visual component for the songs, mirroring their larger-than-life sound.
Strat battles with pushing against the repressive forces of head corporation Falco, whilst also falling in love with Falco’s daughter Raven. This forbidden relationship sings out like a modern, dystopian twist on the classic Peter Pan. Andrew completely embodies the boldness and fearlessness of Strat, effortlessly taking command of the stage and yet also showing us the vulnerability and emotional depth of the character.
A girl on the cusp on turning eighteen, Raven struggles ferociously against getting away from her parents to escape the sheltered life that she has so far led. She deals with the angst of a teenager wanting to break out into the wider world and wanting to pursue a relationship with Strat. Christina excels in every number, showing us the furious inner turmoil experienced by a character coming of age.
Sharon Sexton and Rob Fowler are sublime as Raven’s parents, Sloane and Falco. The emotive conflict present in their marriage is dealt with beautifully, ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’ has always been one of my favourite Steinman songs and they certainly make it a highlight of the show!
The whole cast is made up of some of the most dynamic and talented performers that I have ever had the joy of seeing. You can see the immense amount of energy and work that has gone into this spectacle of a production.
Bat Out Of Hell leaves nothing to be desired, it fulfils every theatrical wish and desire; singing out the songs of Steinman with all the strength and passion they deserve.
Seventeen year old Georgia Fearn’s debut album, Perfect On Paper, sings out with all the elegant defiance of Marina and the Diamonds’ ‘Primadonna’.
The teenager from Carmarthen, Wales, describes her genre as alternative/dark pop; an accurate description for the album’s standout sound.
A self-confessed book addict, Georgia proclaims the mediums of film and literature are her primary source of inspiration for her music, therefore it’s easy to see why each song has such a rich lyrical depth.
The album’s title track, ‘Perfect On Paper’, illustrates the complexity of loving the idea of the person but not having them transpire that way in reality. Georgia shows a true talent for being able to present such complex themes and notions in a sophisticated and sultry fashion that doesn’t distract from her sound. Another example of this is ‘Master Of Jazz’; a smooth story telling of sadness revolving around the enigmatic, unobtainable presence of a man onstage.
To contrast with the more cultivated tracks there are darker numbers with a harder edge, such as ‘Misty Mae’; which was inspired by a personality featured in American Horror Story of the same name. With softer, plucked out melodies intertwining throughout the verses, the chorus sings out with a more raucous feel. Georgia has posted the upcoming music video for the song on her Facebook page, so you can check that out below!
Strong female statements are a running theme throughout, in my opinion best presented in the album’s single, ‘L’Amour’. Opening on spoken word lyrics, a definitive dark atmosphere is set for the album. The song revolves around a woman asserting her feelings, “Stay close everyday, don’t tell me what to do.”
You could say the whole album is a brash refection of the nature of youth: it’s intense, outspoken, sensitive and fluctuating. Sentiments you can simultaneously use to describe Perfect On Paper. So watch out, because I’m sure we have not seen the last of Georgia Fearn.
Originating from Germany, The Instant is an innovative jazz project, unique in their use of an array of singers to ensure each song’s mood is perfectly captured.
Their debut album Nightfall encapsulates the creative freedom that comes with bringing a unique take on a genre as classic and untouched as jazz. The moods and atmosphere differ so wildly from track to track, due to the unique set up of the band, that i wouldn’t judge you for thinking how it all fits succinctly into one album? But it is precisely the stark distinctiveness of each song that allows it to sound like one collective body of work.
Keeping reading for my track-by-track review of this wonderful debut:
‘Lies’ is a smooth sounding song that speaks of sorrow and strength. The vocals are interlaced with melodic intervals from the piano, giving the track a summertime quality.
‘Don’t Call The Police’ opens with soft, sultry tones. The high, echoing backing vocals emphasising the smokiness of the lead vocalist; with the bridge and chorus merging into a more hip-hop feel.
‘Don’t Stay For Breakfast’ sings with an upbeat, mellow clubhouse sound. The joyous vocals of the chorus chant out a cry from one lover to another of not out staying their welcome.
‘Scarlet Visions’ is an atmospheric number, with lyrics laced in metaphor and clouded, sensual vocals.
‘Sand’ encompasses an atmospheric feel through it’s sound layering. Its lyrics paint a fanciful far away story for the listener to escape to as the subject in the song is too taken away; ‘Drifting away in a room without windows’
‘Bitter End’ centres around fighting to save a relationship. Set against a wall of percussive sound interlaced with soulful piano, the song creates a sense of longing with its instrumental periods.
‘La Le La La’ sees a huskier male tone at the forefront. With catchy lyrics and a groovy beat, a party, fun-loving vibe is created within the song. The vocals themselves are emphasised as more of an instrument, with the varying rhythms and tones matching up with the background percussion.
‘Nightfall’ creates an ambiguous, mysterious feel with the marriage of piano and percussive giving the melody a driving force.
‘Yes I Do’ feels like a sublime illustration of 80’s disco brought into the present, creating a sound slightly reminiscent of modern day techno-pop act, Daft Punk.
‘Close and Far Off’ generates a dark and dramatic introduction through the power of the piano. Without vocals, the piano is left to sing out with its melodies that move with an ebb and flow as easy as the current.
‘Jazz’s Not Dead’ feels like the essence of the album’s message, that jazz as a genre is one that, while it’s not often done, can be experimented with to achieve successful results.
The Woman In Black, a title that holds all the weight of a modern classic.
First germinated in Susan Hill’s 1983 Gothic novel, four years later it was to be adapted for the stage by English Playwright Stephen Mallatratt and now it stands as the second longest running play in the West End.
Hill’s novel presents to us retired solicitor, Arthur Kipps, a man secretly plagued by his dealings at Eel Marsh House. One night, at home with his family, he is prompted by his children to tell a ghost story, this irritates his brooding fear and prompts him to write the horrors that befell him, and still hold grip on his soul.
The play is lovingly faithful to Hill’s novel, whilst also providing the added dimension of “The Actor” (currently played by Mark Hawkins) whom Arthur (currently played by Richard Hope) takes his twisted tale to, in an attempt to collate a performance from his writings. This added element of performing a play within a play presents a monumental challenge for both actors, one which they rise to tremendously.
Robin Herford’s direction keeps the play focused and attentive at all times, no line spoken and prop used is superfluous. As an audience, we may see the minimalistic set up of the stage and wonder how are they to bring such a story to life? We are invited to use our imaginations, just as the novel does, and when you see a play driven by such meaning and purpose, you quickly find yourself where they wish for you to be.
Richard Hope’s portrayal as Arthur Kipps, clearly highlights all of the talent shown in his multifaceted career. His wealth of expertise as an actor is gloriously displayed, as we see him seamlessly transform into the various characters present in his tale. Hope captures the torment of a man who has had fear ingrained in his bones for so long, and in the interludes where we take a “break” from their re-telling of Arthur’s tale, do we also get to see the emotional impact that this is having on our protagonist.
Mark Hawkins represents Young Arthur in the tale, effortlessly capturing his fresh, unrelenting fear of a man in solitude facing up to what he initially refuses to acknowledge. He portrays Arthur’s terror with exacting fidelity, never once veering onto a path that could so easily make the scares feel over or under dramatised. Like Richard, Mark possesses an ease in switching back and forth between his roles of Young Arthur and The Actor; Arthur’s guiding hand, not only in terms of advising him on the performance but also his emotional support.
Part of the creative transformation must also be credited to Kevin Sleep’s lighting design, which plays such a vital role within the show. With subtle changes we are shown the limited visibility of the marshes, the subtle burn of a red sun setting, and the shade in which the secrets lay.
This play provides an immersive, all-consuming experience that I had never before encountered as an audience member. Gripping from beginning to end, be prepared to sit on the edge of your seat for The Woman In Black.
This Thursday past saw a special birthday concert take place in the quaint and quirky venue of The Old Queen’s Head, in Islington (serendipitously near Angel station).
Singer-songwriter Steve Dagleish was the focal point of the night’s gathering, kicking off the celebrations with ‘Angel To Ancient’; a reflective number cultivated in a songwriting workshop, courtesy of The Kinks’ Ray Davies. A sensitive and wistful lookback at the passage of time, Steve played it solo, just his lyrics and his acoustic guitar; setting an intimate atmosphere for the evening.
When I first reviewed Steve’s album Yours For Eternity a year ago, I was so monumentally struck by how carefully crafted each song was, it was more like listening to stories with a melody to match their mood. Now, after this stretch of time, to hear those songs, that possess a lot of sentimental value for myself, played live was a definite experience indeed.
He was soon joined onstage by friend and fellow musician Ben Richardson, as he plucked away at his classical guitar adding musical depth to ‘Emily Stands Strong’, ‘King of the Mountain’ and ‘Gabriel’s Horn’. Between each number, Steve presented a fragment of the main message or feeling behind it- again a wonderful treat to hear an artist explain the seed that grew into the song.
It was lovely to see hear a twist on Steve’s music again as he was joined him onstage by his partner Caro Lyne, who added her delicate vocal harmonies on various original songs, my personal highlight however was their rendition of a modern day gem; The Milk Carton Kids’, ‘New York’.
The vibrant and vivacious Ranagri were up next, close musical friends of Steve and an amazing group in their own right. Having seen them before, I was excited to hear some favourites again, beginning with their instrumental piece, ‘The Hare’. The fast-paced and musically dynamic tone, in perfect sync with its title, always allows for the imagination to blossom whilst listening to it.
The band is comprised of: Ellie Turner (Electric Harp), Joe Danks (Bodhran/Guitar), Donal Rogers (Guitars/Bass/Vocals) and Eliza Marshall (Flutes/Ethnic Flutes). The diverse mix of instruments make for an electric, diverse folk sound with a unique blend of different cultural influences. For instance, ‘Rhythm Takes You Back’ incorporates the traditional elements of African music whilst ‘P Stands For Paddy’ retains the elements of traditional folk storytelling.
Their set ended on my personal favourite ‘You Can Do Better’; a positive anthem inspired by one man throwing wildflower seeds into the River Themes; a mark of how we can all make small changes to care for our environment and one another. The soaring chorus never fails to inspire me and judging by the crowd reaction, i wasn’t the only one who felt that way either.
To end such a warm and welcoming evening, everyone took to the stage: Steve Dagleish, Ranagri et all for one last singalong, ending on three of Steve’s songs including the title track of his previous album, ‘Only Losers Write On Bridges’.
So I got to reminiscing about my lovely little festival, that has been out of the scene for three years now, and I want it to come back; so here’s to hoping…
Dear people of Redfest,
This message is a plea to bring back this wonderful festival.
I attended in 2013 and ’14, seeing Bastille headline was my first ever festival experience at seventeen years old, squashed in a dark field, slightly high off the fumes of others’ weed, jumping about to ‘Rhythm Of The Night’ and what a fucking amazing night it was.
You guys always had the knack for picking amazing artists just as they were on their way up. Bastille, Lucy Rose, Ed Sheeran, Lewis Watson (hell, you were even set down for Catfish and the Bottlemen three years back!)…all musicians I discovered through your festival and still listen to now.
The best discovery was Hudson Taylor, who remain one of my favourite bands to this day, after looking them up when they were announced for the 2014 line up. Months later I had become engrossed in their back catalogue, and found myself dancing around to ‘Battles’ with a bunch of friends and friendly strangers as the sun began to set; again, one of my favourite memories.
There’s plenty I miss about Redfest, the build up of excitement for the line up announcement and then the countdown for the festival itself. Let’s face it, my little Redhill hasn’t got too much going for it, but Redfest was a beautiful hub that gave myself, and others around me, a place to cut loose and enjoy the music in front of us.
Yes, there are other live music festivals such as New Music Fest (which I attended back in 2015; my first year Redfest-less) and while the night was lovely and burned with the warm glow of talented musicians, it’s more of a family-orientated kind of night and not the kind of loud I’m looking for.
Which begs the question, what do the wandering music youths have now?
Sure we can travel out to Hyde Park or Reading and Leeds if we’re feeling adventurous but the ticket prices are astronomical, and the travel’s not much better, and what you receive for your money just doesn’t add up in my opinion.
I miss having something on my doorstep to get excited and take pride in goddammit! It made me proud of my little rundown town to think of all the talented artists we’ve had play here.
Young people’s minds are under threat from the negative impact of the overwhelming effect and smothering presence of social media, we need more external things to get excited about and bring us out of our shells, so people will stop looking into their phones and start looking out at what’s around them. Redfest was one of those things, something wonderful and worthwhile to get lost in, and currently it’s absent, with nothing filling the void.
While my journey will be moving me away from Redhill this Summer, I want this festival back more than ever, not only to ensure those still in Surrey have their beautiful music back but to keep me connected to my little town. And I promise, I would walk back to it, every year.
Another mad dream to pitch while I’m at it, I’m still reeling over the heartbreak of Catfish and the Bottlemen cancelling in 2014, running into Robin’s Cook Farm and finding no Catfish on the stage, well I was a tad gutted. I say they owe us that gig. I want them to play in my hometown, so 2018 headliner?
I hope this sparks the field to be lit up once more.
If you have any kind of love for music and yet haven’t read I’m not with the band please go out and enlighten yourselves, then this might make a bit more sense. Otherwise, enjoy the words.
This is my love letter to you, not one that NME dish out to artists that have tickled their whimsical parts, but an authentic one of openness and honesty about my admiration for the way you put words together.
I’d like to begin by pronouncing my fellow detest at the vapid and over-styled nature of today’s music culture, I’m not saying that all of it is shite, not by any means, just that the gems are becoming harder to find amongst the thriving, popular “chart-toppers”.
Quick side note: I couldn’t tell a man thrusting a free NME in my face, one fine Waterloo walk, to fuck off fast enough. As a music mag they should at least possess the consistency to take an opinion of an artist/band and stand by it, rather than telling certain Bottlemen that they’re “ham-fisted”, “nine years too late” and then loving them up upon next encounter.
Back to the book, your musical story is one that caught my attention from the cover, A Writer’s Life Lost In Music, felt like the core of my being summed up in a single sentence. The book reeled me in further with each chapter passed, until was nose was practically pressed into the page by the end of it. You write with such a wonderful brashness and also heartfelt sensitivity, the words ebbing and flowing like waves on the page.
The story always felt grounded in your financial struggle, one that I’m in the midst of leaping into, as I stand toes curled around the edge of the diving board, ready to jump into the whirlpool of living in London and freelance writing. So thank you for reassuring me that graft and grit can see you through the situations, no matter how tricky!
Your sentiments about the ever-changing nature of music culture sparked up my mind, and resounded with the views I hold in there. Music culture does feel like it’s evaporated somewhat, a lost art form wandering in purgatory wondering when it shall be brought back down to Earth. And I say by the likes of unpolished musicians who are writing tunes worth their fucking salt, who are committed to the live moment onstage and are about delivering mass euphoria to the people who have come to feel it.
I’m a nineties bern, sadly I was a mere babe when the Britpop wars were being fought; guess I missed the last big boat to being a rebellious teenager. Never mind, eh? I’ll just have to make me own.
If there was any passage of words to get the people fired up about making the most of this life, it was the last page of your book, it should be on posters plastered all over this world; a reminder to find what’s really important.
In an age that’s obsessed with how they look as a snapchat filter, or how many virtual friendships they can cook up, it has never been more important to “burn away the bollocks” of all that over-hyped nonsense and “find the euphoria” of this wonderful life.
For me, it’s as simple as live music, putting a pen to paper and laughing really fucking loud with another person.
Sylvia, unlike Amy Winehouse, I don’t view you as some old git that I can’t understand. To me, you sound like a lady who has jumped, frolicked and splashed in the clear and muddy puddles of this life; embraced the rain and occasional E and still come out dry and smiling.
You are a beautifully talented writer and above all else I admire and respect your commitment to the music.
Given that this is in the form of a blog post, I can’t help but feel this is a somewhat contradictory format; given the overwhelming culture of bloggers, vloggers and youtuber book deals (FUCK THAT.) But alas these are the times we’re living in, and you’ve just gotta roll with it. (The Gallagher brothers, from your description, sound as beautifully madferit as I hoped.) I couldn’t give two true fucks about style, but I do want my words to be seen and unfortunately now these two walk firmly hand in hand and don’t show signs of breaking up anytime soon.
So I shall play the game and push as hard as I can and when I’ve broken through that wall, I shall burn away the stylised bollocks of the internet for all the world to see.
But for now, I’ll stick to keeping my euphorias burning bright and holding on to what’s important in my life.
I hope these words find your eyes, dear Sylvia, and if it all sounds a bit impersonal; I shall write you a letter.
There are plenty of coming-of-age films out there, all with the wholesome intention of reaching out to those kids who are struggling, wading through their problems and feeling like they’re not getting that far with it all. They serve to say something useful, something reassuring and something true.
There’s a wealth of them out there that I clung to in my teens and am still clinging to right now in my twenties: Richard Linklater’s, ‘Boyhood’, John Hughes’ ‘The Breakfast Club’, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s ‘Me, Earl and The Dying Girl’ and, of course the British beauty that is, Gurinder Chadha’s ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’.
What connects these four great movies is that they’re all honest representations, I feel, of youth in its various shapes and sizes. The awkwardness, the insecurity, feeling rejected and wanting to feel wanted.
‘The Edge of Seventeen’ slots perfectly into this esteemed string of pearls that I’ve been collecting over the years.
Starring Hailee Steinfeld as Nadine Franklin, a teen struggling to swim through the depths of high school. It’s the same blueprint I know, but just wait, it’s gets far more interesting than most.
The film begins with Nadine confessing to her teacher, Mr Bruner (Woody Harrelson- see WAY more interesting already, right?), about her plan to commit suicide. The film veers sharply away from Hollywood’s want of a comforting, and appropriate, adult response with Woody’s wit and charm completely shining in this support role; inadvertently making him an inspirational figure in the way that she needs.
We skip swiftly back in time, four years, to see the origin of the mess on the home front. Losing her Dad to a heart attack one gloomy car ride home created a rebel-guardian divide between herself a her Mum, Mona (Kyra Sedgwick) and as a result allowed her to slip into the all-consuming role of the less favoured sibling.
Her older brother, Darian (Blake Jenner), appears to be living the ideal life, in her eyes: popular, easy going with a smile to attract miles of friends. Whilst Nadine is a girl evolving into, what she she feels, is a forever inferior figure to those around her.
The one salvation gained from all the heartache and headaches is her best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). Formed in the uncertainty of childhood, the pair have stuck by the side of one another, a bond unbreakable.
So what happens to Nadine’s world when her one salvation and her praised sibling decide to get together?
The chaotic crashing of different feelings that you don’t understand fully and therefore cannot explain to others, appearing on the outside as a destructive youth to those around you, on the outside she now looks like an enigma of a person.
Because that is exactly what being on the edge of seventeen feels like, and that’s why this film is so brilliant; it encapsulates the essence of its title to a tee, just like the classics.
The phases of what you like and don’t like, what you want versus what you need, the stutters, random actions and conflicting sentences of script provide a real social commentary so relevant for this day and age.
In one of her rants to Mr Bruner, Steinfeld delivers a wonderful satirical monologue on the presence of social media; recently it feels like there’s been a bit of a backlash following the widespread condemning social media platforms, and forms of technology in general.
Even, aware as I am, of the various perks of social media, in terms of our communication abilities, it’s stifling us. Hollowing us out, taking away our true sense of empathy and replacing it with robotic responses, a desire for likes, comments and follows, ultimately resulting in a newly formed film that is a false sense of connection.
‘The Edge of Seventeen’ boldly highlights how awkward and scary it is to say your name and put yourself out there; Nadine’s first encounter with classmate Erwin (Hayden Szeto) is the most honest of hello’s. It’s not breezy and comfortable, it’s stunted and stuttered, and representative of the universal feeling of having the desire to speak but having no sense of what to say. But once you begin hurtling over, or even through, those stumbling blocks those interactions can blossom into beautiful relationships.
Just because something is tricky, does not mean that it isn’t worth doing.
Beautiful performances are given all round, enhancing the words of Kelly Fremon Craig (who wrote and produced this as well as it being her directorial debut!), her script a witty exploration into the wounds we gain from life and how we can watch them heal slowly, as we walk on.
Her direction maintains its focus whilst fooling us into thinking it doesn’t know where it’s running to; a lovely metaphor for the overall arc of growing up.
It is a piece grounded in realism, change wasn’t presented as a monster made up of nothing but drama, rather as something that just happens.
And though it is often the greatest cause of fear, and cause your emotions to burst in, around and out of you, it is a natural part of the forward motion that is life.
After all, as Woody Harrelson so beautifully phrases it,
“Life’s about taking risks. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.”
Recently Marvel seems to be striped up with this PG, kid-centred, family friendly image; blame it on all those Primark tops and incessant branding of any object that can fit on the logo. But when you go back to the roots of these stories, the comics, you’ll see the heart possesses a lot more tenacity.
Fast forward twelve years into the future, a quickly degenerating Logan is isolated, in the middle of a wasteland, caring for the professor whose mind is dangerously fluctuating between normality and paralytic fits.
Before I go on, I would just like to say that oscar-worthy performances are given by both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart in this grit-infused, action-jammed adventure of a film. The symbiotic relationship conveyed between the pair is so emotionally sensitive you cannot help but let go of a few tears.
Dafne Keen is mesmerising as young mutant Laura, on the run from biotechnology corporation Alkali-Transigen, she is taken under Logan’s wing as they help her try and escape from the hands of those who have held her captive for so long.
Unlike his long-standing, steady companionship with Charles, the sudden arrival of Laura creates for a relationship based on opposing forces with a dormant of layer of mutual understanding lying at deep beneath all the aggression; given that they’re so similar in nature.
James Mangold keeps the story fast-paced throughout, filling the two hours and twenty one minutes with an abundance of violence to dispel the theory once and for all that Marvel has lost its edge.
The hints of Johnny Cash featured in the soundtrack, as well as the beautiful inclusion of the 1953 classic Shane, glittered the piece with qualities of cinematic genius.Collective scriptwriters, Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green keep the words rooted in history, possibly to reflect the timelessness of this much loved story arc.
All in all, this rough cut diamond of a film, is one that will hopefully be watched and celebrated for many years to come.