Tag: London UK

Born Elizabeth Lowell Boland, Lowell is Calgary, Alberta, Canada-born singer/songwriter and up-and-coming pop artist, who spent time living in Carcross, Yukon Territories, near a mountain that once offered passage to gold hunters — and was also once a preying haven for wolves; the up-and-coming pop artist has also spent time living in Massachusetts, Ottawa, Georgia and Calgary, before splitting her time between Toronto and London, UK.

Early within her career, she won the attention of Martin Terefe, who has worked with KT Tunstall, James Blunt and Jason Mraz; Sacha Skarbek, who has worked with Lana Del Rey, Adele and Miley Cyrus; James Bryan, who has worked with Nelly Furtado and The Philosopher Kings; and Paul Herman, who has worked with Dido.  The quartet of songwriters and producers invited them to London’s Kensaltown Studios to write with them; however, what they all worked on wasn’t in sync with Lowell’s vision, so they scrapped what they had and started over again with the end result being her I Killed Sara V. EP and her full-length debut, We Loved Her Dearly, which was released on renowned indie label Arts & Crafts Records. Both efforts received attention for songs, which openly focused on topics like sexual abuse, rape, abortion, women’s rights, the lack of LGBTQ rights, as well as our cultural ignorance about (and simultaneous) obsession with homosexuality.

Ultimately, Lowell’s first efforts were fueled by the need to empower her and her listeners to challenge gender conventions and inspire freedom from social limitations, rules and misogynists’ abuse of power, and to celebrate and uphold individuality — and while those are understandably heavy and urgent subjects, the up-and-coming pop artist pairs that with accessible, downright radio friendly melodies and upbeat vibes. Much like Fela Kuti and others, she’s used music as a weapon — suggesting as they did, you can challenge social norms and speak truth to power while dancing. Interestingly, Lowell remained friends with Terefe et. al. and it lead to her working with Terefe as a member of his band Apparatjik, and to her mini album If You Can Solve This Jumble. Following that, it lead to four days of writing and recording with A-ha’s Magne Furuholmen, Coldplay‘s Guy Berryman, Mew‘s Jonas Bjerre and Terefe, who she joined onstage at 2012’s Roskilde Festival.

After the release of her full-length debut, Lowell took up residency in her own studio space, where she began writing for other artists, including Icona Pop, Dragonette, Netsky, Grandtheft and Bulow, and where she also spent time working at writing, producing and practicing her craft, as well as guitar and piano (which she is classically trained), so that she could be ready for a self-financed UK tour, where she was backed by a drummer. Since then, she’s played showcases at Canadian Music Week, CMJ, Sled Island, and performed at David Lynch’s Club Silencio in Paris, headlined in Oslo and Copenhagen, opened for Chad Valley in Berlin, Padova and London; and opened for The Raveonettes in Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid.

Lowell’s sophomore effort Lone Wolf was recently released on Friday, and the album’s material focus on the power an influence of youth — particular as a teenager, but from a more mature viewpoint; from someone, looking back on their own youth as an adult, who isn’t too far removed from it. And as a result, the album thematically focuses on self-discovery while retaining the upbeat, anthemic and dance floor friendly production that has won her attention.  In fact, the album’s first single “War Face” is an infectious and soulful track centered around an arrangement featuring bluesy guitar, handclaps, a propulsive battle rhythm and an infectious shout worthy hook that brings to mind The Black Keys and Alice Merton, among others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Born the daughter of an artist, Hannah Scott is an Ipswich, UK-born, London, UK-based singer/songwriter, whose work is heavily influenced by a year spent working on an olive press in rural Tuscany, Italy in her late teens. Scott met her longtime collaborator, Italian-born and Italian-based multi-instrumentalist Stefano Della Casa when they were both in London, but interestingly enough, they both recognized that they may have encountered each other years earlier, when she used to regularly passed through the train station that Della Casa worked in. And as the story goes, when the two began collaborating, they recognized an incredible connection despite coming from very different backgrounds: Della Casa had a difficult upbringing and troubled adult life, while Scott had been lucky to have a supportive and happy childhood — although as an adult Scott has recently been diagnosed with a form of arthritis, which causes severe joint paint and fatigue.

Both artists firmly believe that their musical collaboration has provided an outlet to support each other through difficult times, and so far the up-and-coming duo have received quite a bit of buzz early on as they’ve been featured in MOJOSongwriting Magazine and as a “New Band of The Day” in The Guardian, and airplay on Bob Harris‘ and Dermot O’Leary‘s BBC Radio 2 shows, and had been on BBC Introducing as their “Track of Week” on three different occasions. Adding to a growing profile, Scott and Della Casa have opened for Seth Lakeman and 10cc — and if you’ve been frequenting this site you may recall that Scott and Della Casa played an intimate and gorgeous set at last year’s Mondo.NYC Festival.

Scott’s and Della Casa’s newest effort together, Pieces of the Night is slated for release later this year, and the album reportedly consists of material that finds the duo meshing live, organic instrumentation — acoustic guitar, cello and vocals — with slick yet tasteful electronic production, centered around honest songs on the human condition and human connection in an increasingly hectic world. Pieces of the Night‘s first single “Signs of Life” is a rousingly anthemic piano-led song that focuses on the need to push on through difficulties and hard times, no matter how dark and hopeless they may seem. Certainly, in our dark times, the song’s message is desperately needed — and while rooted in the experiences of its creators, the song is both personal yet universal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Currently comprised of founding member Luisa Black (vocals, guitar), August Churchill (guitar), Jonny Naismith (guitar) and Gavin Haag (drums), the New York-based indie rock band, which specializes in a sound that meshes elements of British art work with American garage rock initially began as a solo project of its then San Francisco, CA-based founding member, after the breakup of her previous band The Blacks, and evolved around a series of demos Black wrote while she was living in London. Since then, the band has worked with a rotating cast in which they’re often a trio but occasionally a duo — and interestingly enough, with the release of a handful of EPs, the band has developed  following in the UK and the European Union.

Rich Girls’ recently released full-length debut Black City finds the band pushing their moody minimalist sound into new directions, and while they retain the reverb-drenched guitar-based sound that first won them attention, the album’s material employs the use of vintage, analog synths and marimbas, as well as some ambitious songwriting that finds the band further blurring genre lines as the material swings back and forth between a pop-leaning focus on melody and a punk-leaning focus on urgency.

“Wayne” Black City‘s latest single is a slow-burning and anthemic, ballad that sonically reminds me of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps,” Concrete Blonde’s “Joey” and Mazzy Star, thanks in part to a sparse arrangement centered around reverb-drenched power chords, thundering drumming, a soaring hook and Black’s vocals singing heartbreaking lyrics on a post-addiction love; but underneath the song’s ache is the self-assuredness of old pros, who can craft an ambitious, arena rock friendly torch song in a way that feels both profoundly sincere and effortless.

 

 

New Audio: Acclaimed, Indie Electro Pop Act Colouring Release an Anthemic, Club Friendly Banger

Colouring is an acclaimed London-based indie pop quartet, who will be releasing their highly anticipated full-length debut later this year, and the forthcoming album’s latest single “Time” manages to further reputation for crafting soulful and infectious hook-driven pop that’s equally arena and radio friendly — and in a way that will likely remind some listeners of United and Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix-era Phoenix; but while pairing it with lyrics that focus the dizzying frustration of writer’s block with a psychological realism of someone who has suffered through it quite a bit. 

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Welsh-born, London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Sarah Howells, best known as Bryde, and as you may recall Howells quickly exploded into both the British and international scene with the release of “Help Yourself” and several other singles, as they received praise from NylonThe Line of Best Fit and Earmilk and airplay from BBC Radio 6BBC Radio WalesRadio X and Huw Stephens’ BBC Radio 1, thanks in part to a sound that had been compared favorably to Jeff BuckleySharon Van EttenBen Howard and London Grammar — while thematically focusing on complex, ambivalent, and hopelessly entangled relationships among other things.

Howell’s much-anticipated full-length Byrde debut Like an Island is slated for an April 13, 2018 release through Seahorse Music, a label that Howell founded to release records by-like minded women and help them achieve more visibility in a male-dominated industry.  With the 90s alt rock-like, power chord-based “Peace,” Howell further cements her growing reputation for crafting incredibly self-assured, earnest and anthemic songs grounded in the gritty, psychological realism of a woman maneuvering complicated relationships, her own emotions and society’s expectations of her — and while this song sounds as though it draws from PJ Harvey, Howell manages to write material that feels and sounds as though it were based directly from her own life experiences.

“‘Peace’ is about the warm glow of two drinks and real connection with another person,” Howell explains. “It’s about the end of anger and the settling calm after a storm. Being able to be entirely yourself and still be liked. I had to make it the loudest track on the album because if something’s a not a little subversive.”

 

 

 

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Rachel K. Collier is a Swansea, Wales, UK-born, London-based singer/songwriter, producer and electronic music artist, who achieved both commercial and critical success across the UK relatively early in her career; in fact, Collier is credited as a co-writer or producer or several chart-topping, smash hits including Ray Foxx‘s “Boom Boom (Heartbeat),” which peaked at number 12 on the UK Singles chart back in 2013; Mat Zo‘s Grammy-nominated album Damage Control, which peaked at number 1 on the iTunes Dance Album charts; and on pioneering garage producer Wookie‘s comeback single “2 Us.” As a solo artist, she recorded a cover of Jimmy Cliff’s Hard Road to Travel,” which landed at number 79 on the UK Singles chart, and her debut original single “Predictions” was named Sarah Jane Crawford’s “Smash of the Week” on the radio personality’s BBC Radio 1Xtra show. Collier has also received airplay and praise from the likes of Annie NightingaleCapitol XtraTiësto and Oliver Heldens, which has added to the growing buzz surrounding her in electronic music circles.

Building upon a growing national profile, Collier released her self-produced, debut EP Words You Never Heard through Love and Other Records in late 2015 and followed that up with “Ships,” a single she released during the last few months of 2016. Now, as you may recall, last year I wrote about Collier’s “Paper Tiger,” a slick yet un-fussy club banger, which she followed up with extensive touring playing sets at clubs and festivals across the European Union and unsurprisingly, with the release of her latest single “Darkshade,” her experiences touring throughout 2017 have influenced her creative process and her sound, as the new single finds Collier pairing what arguably may be the most emotionally direct lyrics she’s written with a sound that manages to be simultaneously radio and club friendly — all while further cementing her reputation for crafting rousingly anthemic hook.

“I’ve been heavily inspired from playing live at clubs and festivals throughout 2017 -playing my synths on stage at full volume is so satisfying and fulfilling that I’ve been incorporating synth solos and counter melodies way more into my actual production rather than just doing it on stage for fun!” Collier explains in press notes. “Darkshade feels like a song I needed to get off my chest — many of us will go through life hiding, disguising or playing down a physical/emotional element that we have but we don’t like. This song is about that and how I deal with it.”

This year may be a breakthrough year for the Swansea-born, London-based singer/songwriter, producer and electronic music artist as her full-length debut is slated for a September release.

 

 

Biig Piig is an up-coming 20 year-old, London-based pop artist, who has lived a rather nomadic life in a wide array of cultures as she was born in Spain, moved to Ireland, where she spent several years before finally settling in London, where she eventually joined the Nine8 Collective, a London-based crew of 27 creatives, who collaborate and support each other through a number of different artistic disciplines. As a solo artist, the British-based singer/songwriter has received attention for material that assimilates the sort of life experiences — she once worked as a poker dealer and as a tequila bar waitress — that gives her work an intriguing blend of maturity and youthful naivete. In fact, her stage name reportedly came about after drunkenly reading the name off a pizza menu and relating it to a sense of self-acceptance. “The more I called myself it, the more it made sense. I’m just a mess really. Still cute tho,” the up-and-coming London-based artist jokes in press notes.

Biig Piig’s latest single, the Dylantheinfamous-produced “Flirt” is the first official single from her forthcoming debut EP, Big Fan Of The Sesh, and it features the up-and-coming pop artist’s coquettish and jazz-inflected vocals over a dusty, soulful yet minimalist J. Dilla, Madlib-like production consisting of twinkling keys and boom bap beats but underneath the surface is a song with a narrator, quietly suffering through the feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and overthinking that typically happens when you’ve started to like someone but don’t quite know what you want to happen — or if you even want it to happen. And while capturing a fairly universal experience, Biig Pigg gives the song subtle yet detailed bits of realistic and intimate psychological detail that makes it seem as though the song was inspired by her own experiences. Interestingly, the EP is conceived as the first of a trilogy of audio-visual stories mixing the deeply personal with the universal, centered around a main character, a young woman named Fran — and the material generally focuses on that first doomed, major relationship, losing yourself in city life but somehow managing to come out o the other side.  “I’d hope,” says Biig Piig, “that anyone that feels they’re in a situation like that would find some solidarity in some of the tracks; understanding that you don’t owe anyone anything, and if you’re in a cycle that makes you unhappy, best believe you can change it compadre.”

 

 

 

New Video: Benin City Returns with a Thumping, House Music-Inspired, Club Banger

Comprised of Joshua Idehen (vocals, spoken word), Shanaz Dorsett (vocals) and multi-instrumentalist Tom Leaper, the London-based trio Benin City have received both national and international attention for a sound that meshes Afro-pop, hip-hop, spoken word and electronica in a seamless, club banging fashion. The trio’s forthcoming sophomore effort Last Night is slated for a April 6, 2018 release through Moshi Moshi Records, and the album reportedly is an ode to London’s nightlife and club scenes with the trio commenting on what their hometown’s nightlife scene has meant to them while expressing anger, frustration and weariness over a rapidly disappearing scene.

For countless people across the world, especially those in a city like New York, the disappearance of beloved clubs, bars and music venues create much larger, universal questions: What does it mean for your town and its culture? What does it mean socioeconomically? With nightlife being both an escape from the soulsucking horrors of the daily grind and a way for weird kids passionate about dance, music, art and fashion to find a supportive loving alternate family, where do these kids go to find that kind of support and love? What happens to them if they never find the support and love they needed? Where do they find a sense of belonging and purpose? And if they have found all of that in a beloved club or bar, what happens when that spot closes?

Interestingly, each individual member of Benin City has spent the past decade in London’s nightlife scene in a variety of roles including artists, ravers, bartenders, bouncers, bar backs, scenesters, drinkers, partiers and weekend warriors, and as a result the album’s material emphasizes a deep, inconsolable sense of loss. As the trio’s Joshua Idehen explains, “London nightlife has been our way out, our release, our daily escape. We’ve been clubbers, barmen, part / full-time drinkers. We’ve served cocktails and downed shots. We’ve found ourselves on dancefloors and lost our dinners on nightbusses. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve engaged in dumb drunken squabbles and we’ve found ourselves in strangers’ houses. We’ve danced to songs we didn’t know the name of. We made landmarks out of hidden corners of London: Passing Clouds, Ghetto, Trash Palace, Plastic People, Vibe Bar, Cable, Crucifix Lane. Those places, and the stories they held are gone for good as London becomes pricier and ever more grey. On this album are some of those stories: this is an ode to London’s nightlife.”

Towards the end of last year, I wrote about album single “All Smoke, No Fire” a track that featured a minimalist yet propulsive and club rocking production consisting of stuttering beats, an eerily repetitive and chiming synth line and an enormous yet sinuous hook over which Idehen and Dorsett rhyme about prototypical club situations — while noting that those who engage in and love nightlife culture need it to survive with their dignity and sanity intact, even if the bouncer is a no-neck having asshole or if someone spilled their drink over that dope new outfit you brought just for that one night of freedom; but underneath it all is a subtle and undeniable sense of loss and unease over your personal headquarters disappearing — forever.

Last Night’s latest single “Final Form” is a thumping and sinuous house track production featuring arpeggiated synths, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, chiming percussion paired with a rousing and anthemic hook — and in some way,  the song strikes me as a swaggering and modern synthesis of Snap!’s “Rhythm is a Dancer,” and Stardust’s club classic “Music Sounds Better With You” but with an ecstatic yet deeply personal bent. As the British act’s Joshua Idehen explains, the song was inspired by a night at Zoo Bar, “I once went to Zoo Bar in the West End with a poet I really fancied. It was a Saturday night, and neither of us drank but we felt like dancing. They were playing soulful house (this was back in the noughties). Spurring and daring each other on, we started with the running man and ended up at last orders, dripping in the worst sweat, making up entirely new dance moves, downing large glasses of tap water. She, a Dragonball Z fan, kept saying ‘nah, you haven’t seen my Final Form. Next song I will be over 9000.’ Obviously, that stuck with me.”

As for the video treatment, Idehen explains, “Our last video for “All Smoke, No Fire” was in memory of all the clubs that have shut in the last five years, so we wanted our next video to celebrate the mainstream and alternative scenes still thriving in London. Working with George Bushaway, we crafted a narrative of two clubbers working up the courage to lose themselves in three very different dancefloors: Lindy hopping with Swing Patrol in Holborn, Jungle/Garage raving in Fire down [in] Vauxhall, and a soca night at Ruby Blue, Leicester Square.” The video focuses on these two lonely men, feeling self-conscious, awkward and as though they couldn’t possible belong — that is until they figure out a way to let go, and embrace the moment, absorbing the joy, ecstasy and community of the room they’re in, while being authentic to themselves.

Live Footage: Million Miles’ Sultry and Jazzy Cover of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ “Beggin'”

Over the past year, I’ve written a bit about the Paris-born, London-based singer/songwriter Sophie Baudry, whose solo recording project Million Miles is the culmination of a life-long love affair with soul music. After completing her studies at  Berklee College and a stint as a recording engineer and studio musician in New York, Baudry returned to London, where she felt an irresistible pull to write music inspired by Ray Charles and Bill Withers. On an inspired whim, Baudry decided to make a trip to Nashville, where she spent her first few days wandering, exploring and reaching out to strangers, as though she were saying “I ’m new here and I’m a songwriter and i’m looking for people to collaborate with.” As the story goes, Baudry wound up having chance meetings with local songwriters and producers Robin Eaton and Paul Eberson and within an hour or so of their meeting, they began writing material that eventually became the French-born, British-based singer/songwriter’s Million Miles debut EP, Berry Hill, which was recorded over the course of a year during multiple sessions at Robin Eaton’s Berry Hill home studio. And from EP singles “Can’t Get Around A Broken Heart” and “Love Like Yours,” Baudry quickly received attention across the blogosphere, as well as this site, for an easy-going yet deliberately crafted, Sunday afternoon, Soul Train-like soul that nodded equally at the aforementioned Bill Withers and Erykah Badu and Jill Scott.
Recently, Mahogany Sessions invited the French-born, British singer/songwriter to participate in their Covers series in which she contributes a sultry and jazzy soul-like cover of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ “Beggin'” that sounds as though it nods more towards Brown Sugar-era D’Angelo, giving the classic song a modern interpretation without erasing the song’s plaintive and urgent need.