mike davies

november 2019


CHRIS TYE gets a bit electronic with new single Same Thing All The Time, a bubbling synth line underpinning his otherwise more familiar acoustic folk-pop, the track predominantly (and I assume with knowing irony) repeating the title over and over.


Originally formed in Birmingham, to mark the upcoming 15th anniversary of their debut album EDITORS release a best of set this month titled Black Gold (Play It Again Sam) featuring 13 tracks from their six studio albums to date. In addition, it features three new recordings, the mid-70s Bowie influenced Frankenstein, the Genesis-like Upside Down with its Occidental sounding intro and Black Gold itself, another electronics-driven mid-tempo number.


There’s also a deluxe version titled Distance featuring eight acoustic versions, opening with Violence and also featuring a piano-led Walk The Fleet Road, Blood, a minimalist and emotionally exposed Let Your Good Heart Lead You Home, Fall, Two Hearted Spider, a strings enrobed emotionally intense reading of Distance and, swapping Chris Urbanowicz's guitar with acoustic strumming, piano and strings, a stunning rework of their classic Smokers Outside The Hospital Door.


THE GORSTEY LEA STREET CHOIR return with new single, The British Isles (500 Broadcasts Recordings) (achieving their first BBC radio play in the process), a near six-minute contemporary progfolk number with a rolling melody line and sweeping keys with spoken word passage behind the soaring finale. Described as a ‘tonic for the times’ and inspired by Joe Strummer’s MTV speech Without People, You're Nothing, it’s a call for unification in the face of division and delusion.

swim deep

Now lining up as Cav McCarthy, Austin Williams, James Balmont, and new boys Thomas Fiquet and Robbie Wood, taking its title from their local pub, SWIM DEEP resurface with third album Emerald Classics (Pop Committee) seeing them in sonically anthemic form. Opening with the teenage memories of being on the dole and running errands for your mother, To Feel Good, with the Margate Social Singing Choir intro giving way to spoken vocals about how we get through the dark times over a baggy rhythm, it moves into the thumping 80s disco beat of 0121 Desire and its ambiguous perspective on their home town (“You wouldn't want to leave here / You wouldn't want to stay"). Bruised is smoother and dreamier in its dance moves before World I Share throws up waves of optimism shimmering with New Order and Pet Shop Boys colours.

swim deep sleeve

Father I Pray reprises the choir for a mid-tempo indie dance sway song about a difficult farther-son relationship while family themes spill across into Sail Away, Say Goodbye which manages to bring an ebullient 80s syth pop vibe to a song about Williams’ grandmother slipping into dementia as he sings “You see life much differently / And you see things people don’t see”. Family’s there too on the rather lovely, Pulp-like cascading pop of Top of the Pops, a song for his mother, as he declares “I wanna be on Top Of The Pops for you / I wanna move you to Beverly Hills for the view”.

Piano chords, brass and what sounds like tubular bells fuel Drag Queens In Soho, another euphoric slice of indie pop, its underlying musical sentiment encapsulated in the tumbling post-rave waterfalls of Happy As Larrie, the album ending with the slow soul groove of Never Stop Pinching Myself as Williams sings about “how I choose to live my life”, just being who he is and how he wants the whole sky to shine a light on the ones I love”. They’ve been through the storms, it would be nice to think the sun was shining on them again too.

While there’s times when they revert (though impressively so) to their familiar blissed out Happy Mondays-ish indie dance funk (Time Waits, Went Walking, Dream), If Confronted Just Go Mad (The Cut Records), their fifth album, the first in five years and the first to include female vocals (new member Cat Mctigue), finds THE TWANG at their most accomplished and accessible yet, kicking off with the summery soul of Everytime and the jubilant Lovin State which evokes vintage Squeeze as well as having a musical vibe that reflects the dodgem funfare ride of the cover.

That same upbeat and optimistic pop sensibility is manifest on It Feel Like (You’re Wasting My Time), the soft and swaying synth pop ballad Million Miles, the equally blissed curls of Kingdom and the chugging rhythms of their inspired cover of The Blue Nile’s Tinseltown In The Rain. It ends with a contribution from spoken word artist Polarbear on Nothing Gets Better, a title that could well serve to describe the album itself.

jayne powell

Another local artists to have risen from the ashes of Pledge Music’s collapse, JAYNE POWELL releases her new album, One Day Sometime this month, the title track leading things off with slow chugging percussive backing to a bluesy folk-inflected, gradually building ballad before things get rockier and musically raspier with the staccato percussive drive of Bad Days, giving way to another march beat big building ballad in Any Day

Wilderness is a bluesier measured lope with bass guitar throbs in contrast to the following pared back acoustic and guitar chime of the vocally vulnerable Take A Look. It’s back to the blues for the sensual Hard Way with its rhythmic Latin-tinged sway, changing tack again with the growly, distorted psychrock prowling Stay The Same where PJ Harvey echoes add to the somewhat ominous mood.

Shades of the Velvets colour the narcotic riff of the sleepy-lidded sung Vapour Trails, a particular album stand out, before things close up with, first the propulsive driving, rocking country tinges of Don’t Wanna (Go It Alone) and the six minute Zep-riffage closer Never Hear, its heavy sludge giving way mid-section to an acoustic bridge before returning to a weltering feedback finale.

A gifted songwriter with a striking voice and an ear for complex yet nuanced melodies, she’s been under the radar too long, hopefully this will bring her the wider attention she truly deserves.

lilac time

The first new music since 2015’s No Sad Songs, THE LILAC TIME, Stephen, Claire and Nick Duffy, return with Return To Us, their first for a major label (BMG, not that they seem to be doing much to promote it) since 1990, the cover a pencil sketch reprise of their 1987 debut.

Opening with (I’m) A Believer, a song of optimism in hard times when the world went stupid that namechecks Cecil Beaton, it’s comforting reassurance that musically all is as ever in their world with gentle, pastoral folk and country tinged pop couching the often acerbic, subtly political lyrics and assorted references to Stephen’s Birmingham origins. As for example on the harmonium and pedal steel backed swaying March To The Docks, a song about the D-Day landings (“we didn’t know we were landfill”) that mentions Constitution Hill.

The six-minute The Hills of Cinammon, Nick on muted banjo, is a particularly gorgeous number, simple acoustic strum providing the intro to a nature-imagery infused, Americana tinted love song, mentioning Spitfires and The Beatles, as Stephen talks of family photographs, retail parks and asks “can I kiss you in the portacabin?” in a world where “there’s just money but there’s nothing to be shared”.

A yearning for more innocent times runs through the album, The Simple Things speaking of life when you could listen to the silence and not be deafened by the noise of modern life while the jaunty pedal steel-led title track conjures a guide back to a golden age on the wings of song, a human chain out of the blackout where “the seas are rising and it’s not our country any more, ready for a civil war” with bigotry and racism on the rise in an attempt to “stop them turning back the clock much further”.

The call for change is there too on the softly sung The Bridge & Down with its simple military beat as, in a world where “Everything's for show/And no one lets you know what they're on/Till it's gone” and it’s a case of “you either swim or drown” he reminds that “With nothing but a song in your heart/You can make a start to change your world.”

Again, on the woodwind textured, Brexit alluding (“no one voted to remain, they all went to the other side for a thousand years again”) A River That Runs Both Ways, he says “if you live your life the way you want you can be barefoot in this town”.

Nestling midway and closing with sleigh bell is The Needles, a song about change pivoting round Christmas and New Year which, nodding to Pale Blue Eyes in its opening lines, asks if the feeling of being alone is “the present you can't get out of /Or the future you can't postpone” and, while a love song to his parents, wife and five-year-old daughter, the line “You and your child don't give up” could also be read to carry religious undertones and the trust in faith and the possibility of change when “the heretics who once slept on your floor/Are singing carols at your door”.

The album ends with the tumblingly rhythmic instrumental King Kopetsky, anchored by bass, percussion and tinkling synth notes with wordless vocals, named for the auditory processing disorder and the difficulties in recognising and interpreting sounds against background noise, a perfect musically encapsulated metaphor underpinning the themes that run throughout the album. As it says in the opening song, this is an album to make you “Fall in love/Rise above/Be a believer”

roots-and-branches.com 2020