The Bride by Bat For Lashes

On June the 25th, 2008 I went with some friends of mine to watch Radiohead play in Victoria Park in London. The were touring in support of their album “In Rainbows”, and in support of them was a then little-known artist called Bat for Lashes.

It is a huge regret of mine now that I didn’t pay more attention to her during her set. At the time I think she was still yet to release her first full-length album so in retrospect this seems to have been a really special show.

Since that day I have re-discovered her through her first two albums, “Fur and Gold” and “Two Suns”, and then her following album “The Haunted Man”. But it is her latest offering, the recently released “The Bride”, that I am now writing about.

Dark Hymns

The songs on this gorgeous album feel like dark hymns – dark and beautiful. They mesmerized me from the get go and I don’t think they’ll be letting go any time soon.

When singing, her voice reminds me of the late Sandy Denny; while in the spoken poem “Widow’s Peak”, she sparks memories of one of Nico’s first albums. These attributes of her’s plant her firmly in a position that is highly unique in today’s popular music scene.

More than a concept album

Indeed this is a concept album. Taken from wikipedia:

According to The Bride’s press release, the work is a concept album that follows the story of a woman, whose fiancé dies in a car crash on the way to their wedding. The album follows her as she decides to go on the honeymoon alone and her emotions as she deals with the tragedy.[5] Khan commented “the trauma and the grief from the death of Joe, the groom, … [is] … more of a metaphor and it allows me to explore the concept of love in general, which requires a death of sorts.”

Wikipedia

But not only is it a concept album, but the concept as a whole has been taken beyond the recorded medium. During initial tour dates in promotion of the album she performed within churches and asked her audience to come dressed in formal wear. This idea of taking a musical idea beyond simply the album has always interested me, since first hearing and seeing “The Wall” by “Pink Floyd”.

Song by Song

The album opens with the optimistic “I do”, which is where we meet our heroine, “The bride”. “I do” conjures up imagery of a bride singing to herself with an accompanying harp – the main instrument in the song. However we do get a subtle low string in there which gives that sense of foreboding of the tragedy that is pending.

The next chapter in the tale is “Joe’s Dream”, which starts us down the dark sound of the album with a sinister 3-note guitar riff and a distant thundering marching-like drum sound. These songs are soundscapes that you can close your eyes and escape into.

“In god’s house” just keeps upping the stunning arrangements that this album seems to keep presenting. Bat for Lashes always seems to create such unique soundscapes with her music and hearing this third song on the album reassured me that she still has the touch.

In God’s house I do wait
For my love on our wedding day
Dewy eyes and lashes long for my love
But I’m feeling something’s wrong

What’s this I see?
My baby’s hand on the wheel
What’s this I see?
Fire
Fire

“In God’s House” from the album “The Bride”

The albums fifth song, “Sunday Love”, takes a slight left turn stylistically. I mentioned earlier about the Radiohead concert I first saw her supporting – well this song’s opening reminded me of something you might hear from Radiohead in their “Amnesiac” / “Kid A” days. Although by this point I am in love with this album’s tone and mythology, this change in pace and sound was a refreshing minor detour.

The faster pacing of “Sunday Love” brings us perfectly into “Never Forgive The Angels” and “Close Encounters” and their slower paces. The latter of the two has a great display of Natasha Khan’s ability to bring an uplifting feeling out of the Bride’s mourning.

Two thirds into the album and we come to the spoken word “Widow’s Peak” as mentioned earlier. This choice of having a spoken word section was something I also loved on Lana Del Rey’s album Honeymoon too. This song has one of my favourite pieces of imagery in the album too, the last line of the following:

There’s a demon loose, a demon loose
I can’t get home, I can’t get home
For the road is a snake of mist
And the shadow of a rebel’s fist
His jacket on my back, his bones on the shore
But the secret of dreams is to dream up a door
A portrait of him, a picture of her
A keyhole in a Douglas fir

“Widow’s Peak” from the album “The Bride”

By the time we get to the closing three songs of the album, our heroine is becoming optimistic about the future with the song “I Will Love Again” and the uplifting feel of the penultimate song “In Your Bed”.

The Perfect Marriage

Through writing about this album it has forced me to look deeper into it; into its songs and their words. I am so glad I did choose this album to write about next. “The Bride” is a grand accomplishment and does so much in its 13 songs. At a little under an hour long, this album is the perfect story to listen to when you want to experience more from music than simply the music you hear. If you want to be taken on a story across one woman’s emotional journey from dark beginnings to her destination of acceptance and optimism for the future, then this album is for you.

“The Bride” is the perfect marriage of storytelling, emotion and great song writing.

Also on:

The new Ghostbusters film wasn’t terrible

When I first saw the trailer to this film I had the same thoughts as many fans of the original film – “oh great, another classic film that somebody’s gonna kill off”. But I went to see it today based on the positive reviews I’d seen and do you know what? I actually enjoyed the film.

While I still love the original film way more than the new one, the new film did have many good points to it. One of which was a surprise role played by Jared from Silicon Valley.

One thing I couldn’t help but notice though was the annoying inclusion of cameos from the original cast throughout as well as one certain rock personality. These cameos actually took me out of this film’s experience albeit for a moment – all just to appease die-hard fans no doubt.

Also I couldn’t help but notice how the only woman without qualifications and scientific knowledge was the sassy stereotyped black woman. Maybe I’m looking to deep into it but It’s something that did stick out a bit.

But all in all I did actually enjoy the film. It was a funny Saturday night movie with a few jumps and lots of funny moments throughout.

Also on:

Fast Moving Cars by Carla dal Forno

This single, and indeed its accompanying song, “Better Yet”, is one of the nicest musical surprises I’ve had recently. I’d never heard of Carla Dal Forno before stumbling upon the song “Fast Moving Cars”.

The songs on here are so wonderfully bleak, especially “Better Yet”. I don’t know what it is about the atmosphere that these songs have, or what feelings they evoke, all I know is I can not wait for her debut album.

Also on:

A Deeper Appreciation For Music

As I’m writing this current review, of Bat For Lashes’ latest album, I’m realising that I’m gaining a deeper understanding of the songs than I would have done simply from just listening to them.

I’m finding myself focusing and even studying the music and the lyrics and feel like I’m getting so much more out of the album.

I have noticed it before with other albums I’ve reviewed recently, but it’s with this one – and specifically the song “In God’s House”, that I’ve have really noticed it.

Wild Things by Ladyhawke

I made my finger bleed playing along to one of my favourite songs on this album – the titular song, “Wild Things”. The song isn’t fast, and I’m not particularly great on guitar – I had simply been bitten on the index finger of my fingering hand by our hamster, Moomin. But I didn’t care, it’s a great song to play along to. I didn’t know what key it was in, so I just found a couple of notes that sounded good and pretended I was on stage with Phillipa Brown herself.

Extremely catchy, infectious electro pop.

This is my first time hearing any music by Ladyhawke, and I’m already completely hooked. Listening to her sing, she sometimes reminds me of the vocal sound of Bananarama and even Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders.

The music throughout this album feels like it’s constantly driving forward with ever-increasingly infectious grooves and power. “Wild Things” is a consistantly brilliant, idiosyncratic album and even though each song is unique, the album has a strong consistency throughout which is tied together by Phillipa Brown’s stunning vocals.

This is what a great album sounds like

The opening song, “A Love Song” pulls no punches. It immediately pulled me into its infectious electro-pop groove and built me up to its big chorus. These huge, unashamed choruses are a staple of this album’s core.

The third song is one of my favourites on the album. “Wild Things”, the titular track, builds up slowly with its ambient electro sounds. Then from out of its electro-atmosphere we can hear a voice rising, singing what will be the album’s chrous. As soon as her voice has risen into coherence we drop into a slower, more reflective sound than has been heard up until now.

Your heartache is not forever
It’s another road that we walk together
And our lives become much stronger
As the world goes on much longer
I wandered far to find the answers
What keeps me alive while taking chances

When you’re always almost lonely
You forget to take it slowly

There’s a fire
In the heartland
We dance around it like the wild things in the night

“Wild Things” from the album “Wild Things” by Ladyhawke

“Chills” burrows its way into that part of the brain that makes you bob you head and tap your feet without realising. As I am writing this along to the song, I realise that I am almost full-on dancing where I sit. God help me when I’m driving home listening to this.

“Golden Girl”, although having lyrics of what I think is about unrequited love, feels like one of the album’s most upbeat-sounding songs.

There’s no way up, there’s no way down
You stole my heart but you throw it around
You give it up then you give it away
Your golden girl waits another day
Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh
Your golden waits another day

This is the daughter of love running wild
We are the children that play on the other side
But here I am holding cards that will show you
My aching heart’s all too easy to cut through

“Golden Girl” from the album “Wild Things” by Ladyhawke

The album’s closing song, “Dangerous”, is also up there as one of my favourites. Phillipa sings so seductively on the song’s bridge before throwing you into one of the album’s biggest, and definitely my favourite of the album’s, choruses.

This is an album that goes out with a huge bang, and I can’t help but want even more of it once it’s finished.

Underneath it’s spell

The front cover of the album reads “Recorded in spectacular 100% stereophonic sound”. Now I have no idea what that actually means, but I do know that this album does sound 100% spectacular.

Although my thinking of this as an electro-pop album, “Wild Things” has a much more “real band sound” than other electronic albums tend to have – especially the drums. Perhaps that’s part of the whole “stereophonic sound”.

This feels like an album that only comes along every once in a while and is definitely going to remain in my repeated playlist for a long time to come.

This is what a great album sounds like.

Also on:

Midnight Machines by Lights

 

Over the past few years I’ve been noticing how things have more of an affect on me than they did when I was younger. Films that touch on the human condition move me more than they did; songs about a loved one have a greater affect as I imagine myself and my girlfriend in place of song characters.

Lights’ music on “Midnight Machines” has this affect on me too. An album that I probably would have dismissed a few years ago, is now one of my favourites of this year so far.

Midnight Machines opens with a slow, finger-picked guitar piece called “Up We Go” and gives a good taste as to the pace and mood of what’s to come on the album. The soft guitar and quiet kick drum that enters later serve well the almost-husky voice of Valerie Poxleitner, the real name of the artist “Lights”.

All of the songs on the album are routed in soft acoustic guitar, minimal percussive arrangement and a voice that remains consistently heart-warming throughout. Occasionally, new instrument sounds will weave into the compositions in a way that helps keep you hooked on her words. The album is built on a foundation of strong lyrics.

“Same Sea”, the second song on “Midnight Machines”, opens with the familiar soft finger-picking but now backed with low piano chords and later a low-played string instrument – cello perhaps. No matter what instrumental arrangement is backing her up, the harmonies produced along with Valerie’s voice are always very moving and very personal.

For me the fourth song “Meteorites” is the best example to showcase her abilities as a vocalist and how beautiful her voice sounds with these awesome harmonies. That’s not to say that other songs on the album are weaker – far from it – this is just the one that particularly struck out to me.

My favourite songs on “Midnight Machines” are the ones where her lyrics are the most personal. In “Don’t Go Home Without Me” she sings a beautiful, reflective song where she perfectly puts herself into the shoes of her future self, reflecting back on a life well-spent with her partner and how she’ll be with them till the very end, and how she is grateful for them having stayed with her.

This is the song I will sing to you when you’re old and tired
I will sing it to remind you that I’m old beside you
And if you’re tired of hearing my voice
I’m gonna sing it to you anyway
‘Cause I know that if we made it this far
Those differences I would put away

Don’t Go Home Without Me from Midnight Machines

When the next song begins it really shows off the great pacing on both the songs and the album as a whole. “Running With The Boys” is possibly my favourite song on the album, and is the one that stands out the most to me for being the more upbeat and faster-paced of the album’s songs.

Throughout the album, she tends to keep her voice at a calm, soothing level. Occasionally when she does raise her vocals up at particularly emotional points, it’s done to great effect.

When I think of this album, I think of it as a warm blanket that I like to wrap myself up in at least once a week. Next time you want an album you can relax to – and enter a calm, reflective mood to – check out “Midnight Machines” by Lights.

Also on:

Interview with Katie Ellie

Katie Ellie is an artist I discovered by accident whilst searching Soundcloud, and I’m glad I did.

Despite her career still being in its early stages, she has already had airtime on BBC radio, as well as being nominated by the Hollywood Music Awards for the Best Alternative song for 2015, with her original song “Miss Lionheart“.

I had the pleasure of interviewing the Bradford-based artist, which you can read below.

Please tell us about yourself in as many or as little words as you like
Hey! So, I’m Katie Ellie (Well my name is actually Katie Holdsworth but I got the “Ellie” from my middle name which is Elizabeth haha! I’m from West Yorkshire! Most would say I’m blonde inside and out although I do carry a wise head on my shoulders. I’ve recently turned 25 years old, cringe! I do only look around 18 though so that’s a bonus. I used to play the piano when I was younger but my parents left it at one of our old homes and I did buy a guitar but I just don’t have the patience for it so I stick to writing and singing instead.
Growing up, who were your heroes in music?
I’ve always been really open minded when it comes to music, I was obsessed with Steps, like I’d buy all of their CDs, DVDs, practise dance routines and go to their gigs when I was little. I made my own little steps band on the street and pretended to be Claire. Sad I know haha! *blush* I listened to Eminem a lot too, loved The Smiths, James Morrison, then fell in love with Delta Goodrems music. it was so beautiful and different.
Growing up, who were your heroes outside of music?
I think I felt an instant connection with anyone who had a passion for something. I just looked up to anyone who did the things they loved.
What was the first album you remember buying?
It was definitely Steps. I just loved their enthusiasm and they were just so likeable.
Was there any defining moment in your life when you knew that you wanted to write, record and perform music?
Well, since nursery & throughout middle school I would always be amazed by music and then when I was 8 I’d sit and record the radio every Sunday afternoon from 5pm – 7pm onto my cassette tape, then rewind it and write down all the lyrics to my favourite songs so I could sing along and I’d grab an empty milkshake bottle and use it as a microphone. After that I started writing my own songs and would hum my own melodies.
Who is your biggest influence in how you approach what you do today?
I’m still at the very beginning. I’m learning and growing every day independently. I’ve always paid attention to detail so It’s easier to observe other people. I love artists who are very realistic And connect with their fans and stay true to themselves so I take all their good traits and interpret that into my own life. I’ve made mistakes but all the struggles makes everything worth the while.
What is the proudest moment of your career so far?
The first song I ever took to the studio to record called “Miss Lionheart” was nominated by the Hollywood Music and Media awards for the best alternative song of 2015, so that was an incredible achievement and made me want to push myself out even further.
What is your favourite Book?
I used to have a lot of poetry books when I was younger so I love them. I never really read novels because I’d always been more visual.
What is your favourite Album?
I love The Script #3 I find it so comforting and very inspirational. There are a lot of uplifting and motivational songs in it.
What is your favourite Film?
Oh my gosh a film called “Listen to your heart” it’s such a beautiful film. A deaf girl and a guy meet. He plays piano and writes his own music but really likes her so learns some sign language and they fall in love. Her mum tries to break them up and does everything he can to separate them. The guy ends up getting cancer and becomes very very ill. The girl goes against her mums wishes and decides she wants an operation to finally hear for the first time because the guy desperately wants her to hear the world and the beauty.. (Agh I don’t want to give the end away.. Don’t read further if you want to watch this) so yeah, the guy and girl finally meet again. She goes into hospital to have her operation and the guy is rushed in and ends up on his death bed. The girl gets out finally able to hear and the guy has sadly passed away but leaves her a CD with a song on it that he wrote for her for when she got out of hospital. I cried! So much.. It’s beautiful! It makes me feel so lucky to be able to hear the world and the little things in life like birds, traffic etc.
What is your favourite TV Show?
I love the impractical jokers U.S! They’re such funny guys. I love that they just have no boundaries it’s hilarious.
Do you have a favourite film/tv/musical soundtrack?
Oh my gosh I think the one that absolutely tugged on my heart strings is the Fast and Furious 7 soundtrack, Charlie Pugh – See you again. Just the lyrics and way it is sung is incredible. Moves me.
Are there any new albums you are binge listening to at the moment?
My ultimate favourite band are The Dunwells. Their music is awesome. I love the indie sounds and feel. The harmonies are incredible and it’s just a breath of fresh air! So excited for their next album “Light up the sky” to be released.
You’re walking somewhere and your mp3 player has only a little battery left; You’ve only got time for one more song. What song do you play?
I would have to play Birdy – Wild Horses. That song takes me into a complete new world. I get totally lost in my thoughts for so long after hearing it.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell myself never ever to worry what other people think and just take every opportunity and do what I love without being worried about rejection and failure. I spent far too many years not feeling good enough.
If you could ask any person – living or passed – any question, who would it be and what would you ask them?
That is such a great question. I’d probably ask Birdy how she comes up with such beautiful and unique lyrics.
Could you tell us a joke?
What do you call cheese that’s not yours? It’s nacho cheese So old, I know! Awkward!!! 🙂

Thank you Katie

Thanks for your time, and swiftness, in answering these questions. I look forward to hearing about a debut album soon!

Please check out Katie’s music over on her website.

Also on:

Interview with Madeline from Priest

One of my favourite bands at the moment is Florida-based duo “Priest“, whose album I previously wrote about here. I have recently had the awesome pleasure of being able to interview Madeline from “Priest” about herself, what inspires her and some of her interests.

Check out the interview below.

Please tell us about yourself in as many or as little words as you like.
I’m a Florida Native. I grew up a dancer and have always been involved in music as well. In my free time I like to be outside with my dog, preferably near water, and read books by Carl Hiaasen or Michael Crichton.
Growing up, who were your heroes in music?
My earliest memories are of Spice Girls, Sade, Madonna, Queen, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera soundtrack. I was a dancer growing up so I was exposed to a bit of everything over the years. Debbie Harry, Gwen Stefani, Kate Bush strong female artists have always inspired me.
Growing up, who were your heroes outside of music?
Pippi Longstocking and Han Solo.
What was the first album you remember buying?
In all honesty, it may have been Backstreet Boys Millennium. Got the poster and everything. I still have both haha.
Was there any defining moment in your life when you knew that you wanted to write, record and perform music?
I don’t really think I had a defining moment- singing and dancing were part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mom tells me I was singing before I spoke real sentences. I took dance my whole life, and music is such a huge part of that. One of my best friends and I would make shitty recordings on my old laptop. I was in a band with friends in high school. So when Dave approached me for this project I was pretty excited.
Who is your biggest influence in how you approach what you do today?
It’s kind of hard to pinpoint. I’ve had a lot of great people guide me over the years, from voice teachers to Dave and his wife Liz.
What is the proudest moment of your career so far?
Releasing our full length record Priest last May.
What is your favourite Book?
The Hobbit.
What is your favourite Album?
That’s a tough one, it changes a lot. But Dark Side of the Moon would definitely be one. And my comfort album is Highway Companion by Tom Petty.
What is your favourite Film?
Star Wars.
What is your favourite TV Show?
So many! Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Curb Your Enthusiasm, 30 Rock, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia , to name a few.
Do you have a favourite film/tv/musical soundtrack?
I love the Pulp Fiction Soundtrack.
Are there any new albums you are binge listening to at the moment?
Not super new but I still am super into CHVRCHES’ Every Open Eye, Art Angels by Grimes, and Big Grams.
You’re walking somewhere and your mp3 player has only a little battery left; You’ve only got time for one more song. What song do you play?
Bitch Better Have My Money by Rihanna. lol.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t try to grow up so fast. Take it easy. Invest your time and talents in people who value you. Work for what you want.
If you could ask any person – living or passed – any question, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I think I’d want to ask my Grandma, who died before I was born, for any life advice. Everyone says she was an awesome lady, and I wish I could have known her.
Could you tell us a joke?
The Republican Presidential candidates. lol.

Thank you, Madeline

A big thank you to Madeline for taking the time to answer those – some really great answers there. Please do check out Priest’s album – check out my review of it if you need convincing. Here are links for buying their first full-length album on Google Play and iTunes.

Also on:

JUTRØ – Travva (voc. LINDA)

Dark, industrial, brooding and haunting. This song scares me – which probably has more to do with the accompanying video, but a great video it is.

Its feels as though I am falling down into the abyss of hell when listening and to be honest, when I <em>am</em> listening to it, I’m happy to just keep falling.

Also on:

Long Way Home by Låpsley

One of the first thoughts that came to me when I listened to Låpsley’s first album, “Long Way Home”, was just how ahead of her years she sounds. She has the air of an artist who has been around for over twenty years or more, when in fact she herself is less than that at the time of writing. At the age of just nineteen, she has already laid the first stones of what will hopefully be a very long, and no-doubt will be a very successful, career.

My first taste of her music was from her 2015 E.P. Understudy and it was the opening song “Falling Short”, which was the only song from that E.P. to feature on “Long Way Home”, that immediately got me hooked on her minimalist arrangements and stunning voice.

I can honestly say that she is an artist who I could pick out of a thousand, identifying her with confidence based on her voice alone. She is one of those singers whose voice you simply can not forgot once you’ve heard it.

Room by room

The opening song “Heartless” serves as a welcoming, calm introduction to this interesting, boundary-pushing album, “Long Way Home”. “Heartless”, like many of this album’s songs, is centred around a calm piano harmony with Låpsley’s voice up front. This isn’t, however, a run-of-the-mill piano ballad as it contains, as does a lot of the album, some really effective uses of odd samples and interesting production techniques.

“Hurt Me”, the album’s next song, opens with a synthesized staccato melody, which really drove me into the album and introduced me to the kinds of sounds that I just wasn’t expecting until now. Even at the end of the song there are odd little samples that work perfectly in a really weird kind of way. By now I knew that Låpsley was an artist not only ahead of her own years, but that of many of her contemporaries too.

I’m not going to mention every song, as I’d like you to find out for yourself, but I do just want to say something about the third song “Falling Short”, the video for which I have included at the end. The lyrics in this song are some of the most cryptic for me. The lyrics seem extremely personal and the way that she delivers them serves to enhance that feeling. In all honesty it was only as I write this now that I have actually gone and looked at the actually songs lyrics as a whole. This song’s lyrics – along with the rest of the album’s – can be enjoyed through simply listening to them being sang, without any real thought into what they mean. Looking deeper into those meanings is like peeling back the onion layers of this complex, compelling artist.

One month till February
Keep on holdin’ on
And I know it’s short
And I know it’s short

And it’s times like these
And it’s days like these
And it’s times like these
And it’s days like

It’s been a long time comin’
But I’m falling short
It’s been a long time comin’
But I’m falling short

Falling Short from Long Way Home

As the album approaches its half -way point with the fifth song, “Operator (He doesn’t call me)”, the album’s sound took an up-tempo turn. This song’s story centres around a woman whose boyfriend doesn’t call her. Instead she finds herself in contact more with the phone operator, and so considers falling in love with the operator instead. It’s a fun song with it’s routes in one of the most boring aspects of life – being kept on hold. Låpsley seems to have the ability to find little nuggets of inspiration in unlikely places.

He doesn’t call me so put me through operator
Maybe I’ll leave him and fall in love with you operator
My baby doesn’t call me so put me through operator
So tell me should I leave him and fall in love with you operator

Operator (He doesn’t call me) from Long Way Home

One of my favourite songs on “Long Way Home” is called “Station”. It is one of the most minimal as I remember that has everything that I love in her music – her voice sang with shifted pitches, layered to hamonize with each other; great sound effect samples used in refreshing ways – notable one which sounds like a pitch-shifted dog woof; minimal instruments that make her voice almost acapella. “Station” is beautifully haunting and would serve as a perfect introduction if one hadn’t ever heard Låpsley’s music before.

The last but one song, “Leap”, reminds me of something from Radiohead’s Amnesiac album, with beautiful echoing synth sounds with a basey, driving beat – not fast – just driving.

Lock the door behind you

Versatility and and a desire for experimentation – this is what Låpsley brings to her craft. I love as well how she doesn’t settle on a set of default samples across the album. Throughout it you will keep hearing new and unusual sounds that never feel disjointed or mish-mashed. I get the impression that she has toiled for hours and hours over the years, building up a unique sensibility for how to put these sounds together in really interesting ways.

Something I’ve also noticed, listening closely whilst writing this review, is how much more I’m hearing around the main songs that I don’t remember hearing before – the odd sample or harmonisations. This album really is a gift that keeps on giving.

Also on: