the mike davies column september 2016


The much touted HANNAH BROWN returns with a new single, Empty, a pulsing, synth heavy swirlingly dreamy, yet still muscular ballad that highlights her melancholic but powerful vocals to good effect. It may not be the one to forge the mainstream breakthough, but her time is surely fast approaching.


In March last year, DAN WHITEHOUSE made his upcoming album, Sunshine, available to fan club members well in advance of its release in early 2016. Months passed, during which time he was signed to Reveal Records. Now, 18 months later, produced by Chris Clarke and Danny George Wilson, it’s finally getting an official release. Except now it’s been retitled That’s Where I Belong and some tracks have been substituted.  It still opens with the soulful, slouch of the brass flourished Nothing’s Gonna Change It, but then comes a new track, the Mark Freegard-produced country-tinged pastoral, Close Up, co-penned with Boo Hewardine and  featuring BJ Cole on pedal steel and harmonies by Jess Morgan, with its photography imagery. The other new addition is self-produced  album closer The Left Handed Way, a spare strummed reflective ballad.

Carried over from the original version are the punchy gospel rock swagger of the Paul Simon-esque Work with its organ and handclap rhythm, stripped back mental health themed piano ballad The Little Left Unsaid, the bouncy pop You Brought The Sunshine,  the soul and pedal steel stained The Places We Have Been  and the moody, rockier, organ-led drive of CCC.

Absent from proceedings are Pebbles, a slow building gospel-hued ballad with a simple repeated piano line, the simple acoustic There’s A Lot Of Things I Don’t Understand, the hushed steel and flugelhorn of Colin and the Celtic tinged rootsiness of My Anchor. They’re not lost completely though. During his tour with Boo Hewardine, there’ll be three limited edition EPs available (also on digital download) that gathers them along with other bonus tracks. EP 1 features That’s Where I Belong and My Anchor, along with the mid-tempo folk soul Tethered Together and two covers, Matthew Sweet’s Your Sweet Voice and Nada Surf’s Inside of Love. EP2  picks up Colin and Pebbles and adds album cut Nothing’s Gonna Change It along with Somebody Loves You off  the 2009 The Bubble EP and The Fire of Lust from his self-titled 2012 debut album. Then on EP3, you get There’s A Lot of Things I Don’t Understand, both a radio edit and live version of You Brought The Sunshine, a live version of CCC, a cover of Ron Sexsmith’s These Days  and, from what I can tell, the otherwise unavailable gradually swelling ballad Looking For A Way Out of My Head that starts with strummed acoustic and gradually gathers a driving drum beat, handclaps and female backing vocals.

There’s no mention of this on the website or press release, but there’s also a fourth CD, presumably also available on the tour, the live in the studio Sings Boo EP (though at 9 tracks it’s more mini album) which, as the title suggests, is a collection of Hewardine covers, including Close Up off the album, the Whitehouse/Hewardine/Morgan-penned Bars (on which Jess duets), Hunger, The Birds Are Leaving, Graceland, Follow my Tears, Wild Wild Wind, It’s A Beautiful Night and The Last Cigarette.

And, for those who can’t get enough of Whitehouse (and there really should be a lot more of them) the album itself also comes as a special edition featuring CD  (recorded at Kyoti Studio in Glasgow by Freegard) that, in addition to Bars, features live versions of the album tracks The Little Left Unsaid, Work, Nothing’s Gonna Change It, The Places We Have Been, That’s Where I Belong as well as a cover of Chris Wood’s Two Widows (from the Introducing EP sampler)  alongside debut album song They Care For You and Why Don’t We Dance from Reaching For A State of Mind. Go on glut yourself.

With Maggie K De Monde having resurrected SCARLET FANTASTIC for a sensational return with the Reverie album, she now lifts the mid-tempo pop Beyond Pluto as a single that also features dance remixes by HiFi Sean and Carsten Düsener as well as a new track, the acoustic Morricone-esque dramatics of Du Quesne and a new version of Lucky Seven, originally featured on the band’s debut album, with its line ‘here’s to our friends in Birmingham’ and reference to the Holy City Zoo nightclub. 


SEMANTICS are a relatively new four piece comprising Bridie Green (guitar), Rob Lilley (vocals/guitar), Simon Lees (drums) and Josh RB (bass), , their self-titled debut EP  wearing its New Order/Editors influences on its sleeve.  The excellent and brooding Games rolls along on a  propulsive tribal rhythm drum beat, giving way to the similarly dark-limned Limits, but with more focus on throbbing bassline and guitar and perhaps a hint of Jim Morrison in there. Again introduced with RB’s bass, it’s fair to say that Ocean doesn’t ring too many changes, the same holding relatively true to for My Detainer, although here the tempo ebbs and flows and there’s a cloudburst of snarly, fluttering guitars towards the end. They need to show a little more variation in sound and rhythm next time round, but this is a hugely promising first outing.


Another newish name, JUICE are a  four piece describing themselves as playing slacker rock, which, roughly translated on their fine new single Angel of the Azure, is a  heady cocktail of early Primal Scream, The Libertines, Oasis with a liberal swirl of  druggy psychedelia carried on echoey vocals, spacey guitars and a steady drum thump. That another track, the summer-spiked fuzz Acid Kids, contains lines about a citrus sun and sequins in eyes, should give you a rough idea of what to expect. This is undiluted indie rock, never from concentrate.

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