Sigrid wins BBC Sound of 2018 poll

Sigrid-press-photo-cr-Francesca-Allen-2017

Norwegian Sigrid wins BBC Sound of 2018 poll

The Norwegian singer Sigrid has been announced as the winner of BBC Music’s Sound of 2018 Poll. The Don’t Kill My Vibe star beat off stiff competition from the likes of Pale Waves, Sam Fender and IAMDDB to claim this year’s top slot.

The annual poll, which is voted for by 173 music industry insiders, has previously seen Ellie Goulding, Adele and Jack Garratt take the crown. The BBC Music survey asks industry professionals to name their three favourite new acts (whose releases have not yet made it into the UK Top Ten). By anointing Sigrid as the Sound of 2018, the cohort of music pros are essentially backing her as ‘the artist most likely to’ rise to the top in 2018.

With her unwavering, impassioned voice and faultless electro-pop production, the singer broke through last year with her critically acclaimed debut single Don’t Kill My Vibe, released in Feburary 2017. While follow-on singles Strangers and Plot Twist were also hailed as sonic success stories by music critics across the globe, the Norwegian youngster has yet to crack the UK Top 40.

On being told of her win the singer, who is signed to Island Records said: (It’s) “crazy … I’m just really happy and proud of what my team and I have achieved together,” … adding that she was “honoured as there are so many other artists I look up to who have won this before me”.

Following the announcement, the singer hit BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge for some live renditions of her singles. (If you missed it, you can still catch it on BBC iPlayer for up to 30 days from 12th January, 2018).

This year’s Runner Up was English artist Alex O’Connell who performs under the Rex Orange County moniker. His blend of quirky R&B and easy-going guitar pop have seen the 19 year old ratchet up guest slots on US Rapper, Tyler the Creator’s album, as well as lives with Skepta and Frank Ocean.

Fore more news, views and music reviews, follow DervSwerve on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Worldwide Awards 2018 Public Vote Closing Monday 8th

Eclectic radio platform Worldwide FM host annual ‘leftfield’ Worldwide Awards together with 6 Music presenter Gilles Petersen and Brownswood Recordings. Three categories in Worldwide Awards 2018 are open to public vote which will close at 23:59 Monday 8th January.

The countdown has begun to the cut-off for the public vote for this year’s Worldwide Awards. The awards which honour non-mainstream music and jazz artists, are hosted by eclectic arts and culture radio platform Worldwide FM, renowned left-field music advocate and BBC 6 music presenter Gilles Petersen and London based Brownswood Recordings. The vote, which was launched in mid-December, is open to the public in three categories of Worldwide Awards 2018: Track, Album and Jazz Album (released in 2017).

The annual awards which mark outstanding releases in the ‘musica obscura‘ of left-field underground were, according to Petersen, set up to “celebrate a side of the music scene that often gets ignored“.

This year’s Worldwide Awards ceremony will take place on Saturday 20th January, 2018, in London’s KOKO venue. Acts already confirmed to light up the night include IAMDDB, who will be fresh from her performance at #ESNS18, as well as off-mainstream Soweto six-piece BCUC, US/UK trio Khruangbin, producer, electronic artist James Holden, and Radio 1Xtra DJ Jamz Supernova.

The contenders for all three awards were drawn from those artists nominated in the multitude of categories the winners of which will also be announced on the night. Some of those nominated in the three categories open to the public vote are:-

TRACK – 

Let Go, Connie Constance; Wires, Ossie; Shade, IAMDDB; Face, Brockhampton

ALBUM – 

Love what Survives, Mount Kimbie; Lilies, Melanie de Biasio; Migration, Bonobo; DAMN, Kendrick Lamar; Drunk, Thundercat

JAZZ ALBUM – 

Juan Pablo: The Philospher, Ezra Collective; Yellow Ochre, Vels Trio; Arise, Zara Mc Farlane; Wildflower, Wildflower

To help you make up your mind, we’ve pulled together a playlist featuring a random selection of just some of the superb artists nominated for this year’s #worldwideawards. For full details of the nominees and to vote for the artists you think should win – CLICK HERE.

Emilio Pinchi, Jarvis Cocker & The Never-ending Circle of Love

Emilio Pinchi

It’s a rare treat to plug into a new song only to find you’re on the receiving end of Jarvis Cocker mark 2. That is exactly what’s going on with Emilio Pinchi on his latest single, During Voided Hours.

The lead single from Liverpool-based Pinchi’s upcoming EP due out later this year, During Voided Hours is something of an inadvertent homage to the soft-tones of Sheffield’s whimsical Britpop son.

And it’s not just a Cocker vocal-doppelganger thing – the very blood of Pulp’s bassline beat is coursing through the heartland of this song.

The fact that Pulp was one of the most ingenious bands of the ’90s, and Cocker a songwriter significantly superior to many of his peers, shouldn’t go without mention when putting the comparisons into perspective.

Coming in at a very short but sweet two and half minutes, During Voided Hours is a flurry of nicely textured guitars hurtling through a Jools-like bluesy bass and piano combo that complement each other perfectly. As the dynamic piano is to the louche bass, the drawl of tight guitar twang is to the percussive smash in this hyperactive whirl.

Listening to this track is like being thrown into a spinning top that carries you at full pelt around the cyclical patterns, instrumental and lyrical, on which it’s built.

Notwithstanding the hushed tone of Pinchi’s underplayed vocal, the ‘real-life’ quality of his delivery, gives it a tangible, ‘warm to the touch’ quality. As ever, life keenly observed is given the short, sharp, shock treatment of razor lyrics.

Emilio Pinchi is master of both brevity and understatement, something which puts him somewhat at odds with the afore-mentioned master of melodrama.

Speaking about the song Emilio said: “The song’s about breaking-up with someone and end up like strangers. Then you go out and meet new people, but you’re such a tertiary character in their life’s movie-plot at that moment in time.  You realise there’s actually no difference between these new people and the person you were with – it’s just kind of a perspective thing.”  

He continued “I put a bunch of memories and experiences in the the second verse, but the idea is that you don’t know whether they’re old memories or completely new memories/about the old person or a new person. Underpinning the idea of everything being cyclical”.

***Spoiler alert – Keep an ear out for a little amuse bouche of a nod to a fellow homie!***

During Voided Hours is out now. You can follow Emilio on Spotify and Twitter.

DervSwerve.

Derv’s Voyage of Discovery – NotSoWeekly Newsletter (Vol 3)

 

Dublin 200717
Photo: Derval Mc Cloat

Greetings peoples and apologies for ‘le silence’. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Thing is, I’ve been transitioning into a ‘career’ as a full-time writer and as with any big upheaval, it’s been more than a little life-changing to say the least. Anyway, hey ho, we’re there now! Que sera sera!

Okay, so in a WAY busier than average early Summer season, there’s a shed load of music n’ news for ‘you/me/us’ to get acquainted with; so no dilly dallying, let’s get straight to it and kick off Vol 3 (in case you missed it, here’s a link to Vol 2)

First up y’all, a dash of fan-girling. Long time ‘admiree’ of the blog, Dorset gal Gris-de-Lin, has been hi-bindering around the Antipodes and Europodes with one Gemma Ray. Within a hair’s breadth of their return from a gander around Oz/New Z, the pair along with Andy Zammit high-tailed it off to swan around Switzerland and Germany finishing up at Berlin’s Baustelle Neues Schloss (if anyone cares to tell me what that means, I’m all ears) and to prove it, we have a photo!

If you still don’t know how damned-fine a singer/musician Gemma is, then feast your senses on this short live film taken during a recent gig in Rome.

As per, our newsletter is accessorised by a bejewelled Spotify playlist, in which you’ll find sonic samples from both the G’s.

Now unless you’ve been living in a dark cave on the Outer Hebrides or were turned into a frog by the the local branch of your witches coven, you’ll be aware of the biggest tour in town passing through an arena near you. Derv was lucky enough to get to see Radiohead play a packed out 3Arena, Dublin the week of #OKNOTOK and the 20th anniv of OK Computer.

It was, a boiling cauldron in which the frenergetic roars of the crowd reverberated thricefold off the gigantic dome-like ceilings.  Radiohead (11, 886, 308 likes on FB and counting) were magnificent in voice, instrumentation, performance and form.

They were, as we would say, in fine fettle, with frontman Thom Yorke gyrating like a buck hare with St. Vitus’ dance with all of the verve and flexibility of a man half his age.  Stage right, (Here’s) Jonny was enacting his very own version of The Bends (over the keyboards), while stage left gave us the ever statuesque Ed vocalising stunning renditions of falsetto harmonies to Yorke’s lead.

It was without doubt the best live performance by any music act/artist I have ever witnessed. The only downsides were:-

  1. Being physically assaulted by the Corkonian nutjob standing to the left of me – if you’re reading this, I don’t bruise that easily!
  2. Being physically assaulted by the oversized fully stuffed totebag on the right hand shoulder of the guy with the jigging legs in front of me, Cheers
  3. Being physically assaulted by the 40+degrees indoor temperatures – it was like a sweaty hellish furnace. White top, bad move 😦
  4. The very noticeable absence of a certain Creep from the setlist

So, for those of us who didn’t get to see their first ever smash performed live ‘in person’, here’s Radiohead performing the Pablo Honey anthem live at Glastonbury (where they were rockin’ but not as rollin’ as they were in Dublin!!).

THE MAJESTIC, THE MEDIOCRE, AND THE MEH!

There are so many new releases zipping around the stratosphere right now that in order for us to catch up, the easiest thing to do is to emulate them and accelerate at high speed.

Harry Styles Harry Styles (Album) – “And tonight Matthew, I’m gonna be David Bowie/Beck/Prince”. On your bike mate. A poor man’s Robbie Williams without the songwriting talent of Guy Chambers. DerVerdict – Dreadful tosh that borders on identity theft. Run. Very Fast.

Alison Moyet Other (Album) – Alison Moyet has created an album of sheer beauty, an undiluted joy that navigates rivers of lyrical poesy and soars, like the Essex singer’s voice, through an abundance of musical melodrama.

Eloquent, elegant and eschewing the jazz-pop style which became her post-’80s signature, Other is a masterpiece. An adventure through a lyrical wonderland set against a backdrop of well-matured, modern day electronica. DerVerdict – If you only buy one record …  PS See the 5min vid below of Alison discussing the album.

The Strypes Spitting Image (Album) – The Strypes, who made their ‘world debut’ on the Studio 4 stage of Ireland’s grand-dame of talk shows, the Late Late, are a band steeped in the youthful yore of The Beatles, Elvis Costello and some other band that’s hanging onto the tip of my tongue for dear life (when I shake them off I’ll let you know). Or is it the shades of James Honeyman Scott’s helter skelter guitar style?

Either way, Spitting Image ups the ante, a bold yet natural move for a young band previously known for their Bo Diddley R&B meets proto-punk vibes.  If you’re familiar with the works of Tilbrook/Difford/Holland aka Squeeze, (I Need A Break From) Holidays will resonate. DerVerdict – A Must buy, for sure.

Broken Social Scene – Stay Happy (Single). There are similarities here with Norwegian band Broen (when they’re not lurch-rappin’). Toronto natives Broken Social Scene have a new album in the post – Hug of Thunder – which should arrive on your doormat 7th July (via City Slang). Ahead of its release, the multi-faceted Canadian outfit have dropped lush single Stay Happy.

Opening with a vocal lifted straight out of Barbarella and a melody floating through a tropical night sky, the track rapidly transitions into a melodramatic fanfare of funky beats, swaggering bass and glorious choral harmonies, all with a twist of lush shiny brass.  More to follow! DerVerdict – Yeah baby!

Broen – You (Detective) (Single). Speaking of Broen, BBC radio and most recently Lauren Laverne, appear to have fallen in love with this track. It’s a serious ramp up from their previous outings, a maturing of what was previously a sound somewhat in slight disarray or a style reaching out for its place in an ever changing musical landscape.  With You, Broen have nailed a sound that does justice to their redoubtable talent.  DerVerdict – Dive In!

Nick HaywardMountaintop/Baby Blue Sky (Double A). No your eyes are not deceiving you.  Yes, this is Nick ‘Haircut 100 – Fantastic Day’ Hayward and he has returned to the fold with new music, a new signature style and new specs. Mountaintop is Everley Bros gone yeehaw Bluegrass, while Baby Blue Sky casts a few backwards glances to the 80s whilst nestling in a predominantly easy listening Tom Petty-esque pop-rock landscape.

Nick Hayward’s new album Woodland Echoes is due out later this Summer. DerVerdict – No set stylistic pattern makes it difficult to gauge which audience Hayward is aiming for! TBC

NEWS IN BRIEF – RELEASES IN #SPEEDOS

August RosenbaumNebula (Single). An absolute heavyweight of an instrumental set on classical-Spanish pillars, performed with emotive aplomb. Curious, dark and exceptionally imaginative. DerVerdict – Worth exploring. 

Depeche ModeGoing Backwards (Single). Oooh, just for a minute there, I thought the mighty Mode had crossed back to days of yore and greatness. That said, there are shades of old in here. Stylistically, Going Backwards somewhat does just that, sitting somewhere around Ultra/Exciter territory. DerVerdict – Hardcore fans will love it, Wilder diehards will pour scorn. Plus ca change.

OtherkinReact (Single). While still brimful of clangour, sass and swagger, and with a white-hot guitar solo in the mix, React sees flame-throwing Irish rockers Otherkin actually take it down a few notches into Strokes-like territory.

With the announcement of a debut album, OK, and a seemingly endless list of European tour dates (starts Newcastle 30th September – ends Dublin’s Button Factory 15th December), Otherkin’s flame is set to continue to burn througout the rest of 2017. DerVerdict – #musicyouneedtohear

MO Nights with You (Single). The Danish singer has flatlined with this hapless, hookless shank of vacant pop. DerVerdict – Nope.

Spring BreakersShaking Hands (Single). Yet another new Norwegian musical spin-off sees Ludvig Moon frontman Anders Killerud (to whom I believe congratulations are in order!!) pair up with Panda Panda co-lead Hakon Kjenstad. Their dreamy debut single Shaking Hands is released under the Spring Breakers moniker. Think sitting inside a slowly spinning top made of marshmallow and cloud. DerVerdit – Yup!

MotionsSay Goodbye/Coincide (Double A). Released on 29th June, this Double A marks the third release from Dublin duo, Dave Nulty and Tom Daly.  It also marks a seismic shift in the quality of both their songwriting and arranging, with Coincide a serious contender for alt-rock anthem of the Summer. Fans of the Gahan Condemnation vocal will be transfixed. DerVerdict – Ones to Watch. Closely.

FESTIVALE!

Festival season is once again upon us and with Body & Soul and Glastonbury now relegated to the blurry mists of hazy memories, we look forward to more upcoming carnivalesque soujourns in muddy/grassy/lumpy fields eating falafel/burgers/<<insert rude word>> whilst quaffing endless gallons of caffeinated drinks/alcoholic drinks/<<insert rude word>>.  Festis to look out for in the coming weeks are, (you couldn’t make this up!) …

Latitude – UK – 13th – 16th July – Headline acts incl The 1975, Fleet Foxes and Mumford & Sons, along with other stalwarts such as Goldfrapp, Placebo and our own Imelda May.

Longitude – IRL – 14th – 16th July – Headline acts incl Stormzy, The Weekend, and ditto Mumford, as well as homies Picture This, Aine Cahill & Bitch Falcon.

Other festivals hitting a field near you this July are :- Noisily (Leicester) 6th – 9th July, BST Hyde Park (London) 1st to 9th July, Citadel (London) 16th July, Tramlines (Sheffield) 21st – 23rd July, and the one I’d go to if I had my way – Afropunk Fest (London) 22nd – 23rd July which features the wonderful Lianne le Havas along with NAO and Thundercat. For ticket info, click on the festival name.

FRESH ON THE NET!

Last week was one of the best weeks for new music that we’ve had on #FOTN in yonks.  Much to my delight silken voiced Aislinn Logan ran away with the public vote.  Alongside her you’ll find gems from Hydromag, The Hangmen, Perks and so much, much more. If you’re an emerging artist, up and coming musician, do please check out our site and give serious thoughts to uploading your music to our Dropbox. Tune into the latest faves here –

http://freshonthenet.co.uk/2017/06/faves246/

And finally, finishing up with some GOOD NEWS VIBES!

So, aside from Ed Sheeran announcing myriad Irish dates (4th – 16th May) on his upcoming 2018 live tour – tickets go on sale July 8th peeps edsheeran.com for details, the super good news is that the Other Voices Irish music festival has announced it will be departing its native Dingle shores this Summer for the riverbanks of Berlin no less.

As part of an initiative supported by the Irish Dept of Foreign Affairs & Trade in conjunction with Creative Ireland, Other Voices will host a live event at the Riverside Studios on 13th July; a satellite-event of Tech Open Air Berlin 2017.

The first in a series, this new OV project aims to both increase awareness of contemporary Irish music and artists within the German market, and strengthen what is already a solid bond with our Deutsche counterparts.

Featured artists will include New Jackson (David Kitt), Berlin-based Tom Adams, Talos, Soulé, Them There and Caoimhín Ó’Raghallaigh of The Gloaming fame.  For further details and ticket info, check here

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/other-voices-berlin-tickets-35761465506

As usual, we give you a parting gift of a specially curated Spotify playlist, below, to complement our latest rambling, shambling newsletter.  You might indulge me with a spot of straw polling below … Hope you enjoyed, and as Dave Gahan would say – “See You Next Time!”

DervSwerve x

POLL TIME ..

 

Female Artists Constitute Just 27% Of The LineUp Of The Top 3 Irish Music Festivals – Why?

THERE ARE MORE women than men living in Ireland, according to the Census 2016 results.  

Figures, recently released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that, of the 4,761,865 people in Ireland, 2,407,437 are female and 2,354,428 are male (a difference of 53,009).  Overall, there is a gender ratio of 97.8 males for every 100 females.

So tell me then why it is then that only 27% of the 114 acts playing three of the biggest music festivals in Ireland are made up of females or have a female vocalist/musician at the helm.

While some fare better than others – the EP Main & Other Voices Stages coming in at a ‘colossal’ 33% – the likes of Forbidden Fruit has just a miserly 16% female representation in its lineup.

The reasons for this gender imbalance remain unclear but it must be assumed that the festival organisers along with bookers & promoters, still hold an archaic view of festival going audiences ie. that despite the fact that some of the biggest selling global music artists are female (Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Beyonce) the public preference is for a male driven festival lineup.

With that in mind, let’s look at the current situation in Norway.  Of the acts that have dominated the Norwegian music charts over the past twelve months, the handful of indigenous artists have either been female – Aurora, Frokedal, Astrid S, Susanna Sundfor, Sigrid, Jenny Hval (the latter was the winner of the Phonofile Nordic Music Prize 2016 for her stunning album Blood Bitch) – or female centric – Highasakite, Slotface.  Norwegian, indeed most Scandi music festivals, are crammed with female talent – one look at the Trondheim Calling, by:Larm & Oya programmes for the past few years will tell you all you need to know about Nordic gender balance.  Female headliners – not a problem.

So, who are the special ones? The female chosen few who’ve managed to secure much sought after places in the ranks of the festival lineup elite.

FORBIDDEN FRUIT (3-5 June, RH Kilmainham) : PROMOTERS, POD – TOTAL ACTS 25, OF WHICH FEMALE 4 — 16%

So far, of the acts announced for FF only 4 – yes FOUR – are female and/or have core female members.  Now four isn’t bad, in comparison with last year’s two, we say without an ounce of sarcasm.  In fact yoy FF seem to be actually doubling their female constituent parts, that number rising from 1 to 2 to 4, so that next year we should expect a ‘great eight’, no?

The Forbidden Fruit Four are – Lisa Hannigan, The Staves, Peggy Gou and Nao.  Not a sniff of female in the headliners Orbital, Aphex Twin, Bon Iver or even amongst the top support acts, Booka Shade, Nicolas Jaar, Flying Lotus.  Hannigan is as good as it gets in the ‘chain of command’.

LONGITUDE (14-16 July, Marlay Park) : PROMOTERS, MCD – TOTAL ACTS 47, OF WHICH FEMALE 12 — 25%

The ‘penthouse’ at Longitude is ‘so macho’ as to be disquieting where the top four tiers are filled solely by male acts.  Headliners include Stormzy, The Weeknd and Mumford & Sons, none with so much as a feminine squeak.  Interestingly, The Weeknd’s other half, Selena Gomez, has the globe’s biggest social media following, clocking up a gargantuan 119m followers.

Be that as it may, here are the results of the Longitude jury – Jorja Smith, Dua Lipa, HVOB, Karen Elson, Lucy Rose, Bitch Falcon, Raye, Sunflower Bean, Aine Cahill, Her, Ray Blk and Norwegian newbie Sigrid.  This year’s distinguished dozen represents a 140% uplift on the 2016 lineup which featured a measly five female artists.  Notwithstanding the large % increase, the figure itself remains paltry at best.

ELECTRIC PICNIC (1-3 Sept, Stradbally) : PROMOTERS, FESTIVAL REPUBLIC – TOTAL ACTS 42, OF WHICH FEMALE 14 — 33%

Top of the Festival Pops, Electric Picnic also tops all others when it comes to female inclusion – but hardly by a noteworthy margin.  Featuring 14 female artists out of a possible 42 acts lined up to play their main stage plus Other Voices, EP2017 is still lagging way behind the national male:female ratios or Scandi fest averages.

Strip out the male centric acts and you’re left with a female inclusive lineup that looks as follows – The XX, Chaka Chkan, London Grammar, Annie Mac, The Pretenders, Phantogram, All We Are, Kelly Lee Owens, Goat Girl; [Other Voices] Saint Sister, Odetta Hartman, Loah, Katie Laffan, Soule.

Big up to EP for the number of Irish females included in this year’s mix but by the same token, a festival as ginormous and important as EP that prides itself as being a leader in terms of diversity and eclecticism should surely, be leading the way in terms of gender parity.  Kudos for having The XX and Chaka Khan on the top rungs of the lineup ladder, but they still only make up 1/3 of the overal top 6 acts featured in this year’s programme.

While it would be easy to lay the blame at the feet of the ticket buying public, frankly in this day and age, that age-old excuse doesn’t quite cut it any longer.  The fact is that in the industry itself there are several women at the top of their game – Jo Whiley, Jenny Greene, Annie Mac, Edith Bowman. In addition, there is a large cohort of female artists dominating music on a global scale – Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Adele, Selena Gomez, Sia, Carrie Underwood – all of whom are listed in the Top 30 best selling music artists of 2016.  So, saying that women no longer ‘own it’ in a male-dominated industry, is quite frankly, bull.

In an age where women’s voices are getting louder AND being heard, what is it about the Irish Festival scene that appears to be turning both a blind eye and deaf ear to the growing trend of peer to peer, gender to gender equality within the universal music industry.  Frankly Ireland, it’s not good enough.  If we can look to Scandinavia as role models for matters of health and education, and if we are happy to be lead by their example, then similarly we can follow in their footsteps when it comes to equality of status, positioning and recompense when it comes to all things music.

The current trend won’t undergo any seismic shift unless bookers and promoters ‘woman up’ and start putting some serious effort into including more female artists in the lineups of our biggest festivals.  Come on Ireland! Let’s starting putting the ‘equality’ into the gender equality we speak so much of! As the song goes, let’s get the balance right.

To celebrate some of the female acts playing this Summer’s Irish Festivals, we’ve run up a Females for Festivals playlist over on Spotify! Enjoy!!

ARY – THE INTERVIEW (Longread)

ARY Press Photo Ida Bjorvik

Upcoming EDM artist ARY’s first ‘cut and run’ single was an uptempo, beat-driven pop number called Higher which not only propelled her onto the Norwegian scene, it also got her namechecked by a plethora of international music publications. A runaway Spotify success it garnered the twenty-something singer several accolades and awards.

But there was no follow on. Nothing, for a whole year, until finally in August 2016 word came that a new single was imminent. Sure enough, a few weeks later, The Sea a stark, melancholy filled dirge copper-fastened by brooding beats, was announced as the theme to Nobel, NRK TV’s major new blockbuster.

Since then, there has been a flurry of releases both solo and collaborative, and with each new song it has become apparent that the Norwegian was right to halt the conveyor belt and concentrate on playing her in-studio A-game. Three singles were released in as many months including the Supervention2 film soundtrack The End and a recent collaboration with electronic whizzkid Synthomania called Darling (and it is).

Jewel in the crown though is the singer’s #1 chart smash Childhood Dreams the success of which has propelled Ary into another league, as well as the sights of Hollywood glitterati such as Chloe Grace Moretz, who recently posted the track online to her 3.15m followers. Now that’s what I call SEO.

A cheeky little number with a teasing vocal and sashaying bass, flirting against the backdrop of a ticking clock to mark the passage of time from childhood to present day nostalgia.  Oh, if you’re wondering what the distorted, ‘man-made’ vocal effect is in the mix, it’s an uber ingenious sample of Russian witch-chant.  Kudos for originality.

Earlier this year in a very cold and snowy Oslo, I caught up with the ever-vibrant Ary who was more than happy to chat about writing Childhood Dreams, her time in a cocoon and why constant evolution is key to finding her  ‘sound’.

“It can take years to create something great.  I’m still evolving, and I hope my listeners enjoy the various versions of me as my sound is far from finished.”

 

Hey Ary, congratulations on your latest chart topping single Childhood Dreams.  It marks a change in direction from some of your other recent singles. It somehow seems more everyday modern and a lot more youthful.  Did you deliberately go funky in a bid to ramp it up from the more ethereal (The End) and deep ‘n dark (The Sea)?

Absolutely!  Since starting out I’ve worked predominantly with 120bmp as it’s in those more up-beat  electronic landscapes where I feel most at home. The Sea actually started out as a house-ish song but was turned in to a dark ballad by my producer. Although I really like the way it turned out, I’m definitely more comfortable making music I can dance to.

Whilst confident and energetic, the single is also reflective and thoughtful. At its core is the notion of looking back to move forwards and never giving up on your ‘childhood dreams’.  I ask Ary when she wrote the track and if it reflects how she feels now?

I wrote the first draft a year ago when I had just signed with Petroleum (records) and for the first time I had to confront the idea that I might actually be in the music business for the long haul.

I started working with Coucheron (electronic producer), trying to figure out which sound I was reaching for and this was one of the first songs we wrote. It definitely reflects how I felt at a time when I was trying desperately to get some balance between achieving my ambitions and staying on top of my personal life. It represents the hunt for something more, and while I still feel like that sometimes the song doesn’t define my life anymore. What I would say is that Childhood Dreams is the most truthful song I’ve released so far.

Childhood Dream’s shows a more playful side to your personality. Do you think it’s important that people who don’t know you get to see the different sides to you as a person?

Completely. It’s important to me that I grow, evolve and improve along the way. I used to strive to be the best I could before I’d even released any music. Then I shut myself away in a kind of ‘cocoon’. During that cocoon phase I was constantly working and learning, and trying to hone my skills.

Then after a year had gone by, I realised I’d put my life on hold.  I’d been reading a book about tech-start ups in which one of the key pieces of advice was to just get your stuff out there, bugs, mistakes no matter.  Just get it out. Keep working on improving, but do it publicly. You’re creating awareness but at the same time people can see you’re constantly trying to get better.

It can take years to create something great.  I’m still evolving, and I hope my listeners enjoy the various versions of me as my sound is far from finished.

The music is quite a menagerie of myriad styles and moods, a journey through a diverse jungle of sonic curios and noises.  How did you and Coucheron come to decide on the various elements and how they should be arranged?

Hmm. Well it started with the bass and a kick, and then came the opening melody. After we first made a draft of the song, I think we pictured it as a typical pop song. But the more we listened to it and worked on it we saw how simple it needed to be. I really like it because of its simplicity. I don’t really feel like we worked it too much. Sometimes you can overwork music to the point where it loses its magic.

I tell Ary that her voice has improved and matured significantly in the last twelve months.  Her vocal shows a new found strength, particularly on the intro where it is completely exposed.

You sound as if you were in a really good place when you were laying down that vocal. It’s a little bit teasing, a little bit playful and very confident and controlled.  You sound as if you’ve found your vocal niche – kinda urban with bluesy undertones. Are you happy with your vocal development and do you think you’ve found your sweet spot?

Thank you, that’s so kind of you.  In the beginning I just loved to sing. Just hearing my own voice with reverb on it felt overwhelming.

There are so many things you can do to edit vocals these days, and I think that is one of the reasons I like Childhood Dreams so much.  In many ways it’s a song without effects, a song in which my voice sounds honest in the sense that this is genuinely what it sounds like.

I feel like I’ve come quite far vocally in the past two years, and it makes me so happy to keep making progress. I’m not sure if I’ve really discovered my sound yet, and I hope not.  I love being able to constantly evolve and to explore the different aspects of the music I make.

When we met Ary had just started a nationwide tour so naturally the conversation turned towards her live performance.  I asked the singer if having developed a confident vocal along with a more dynamic style had helped with her live performance.

I’m not sure if it helps me.. Being in my studio and messing around with sounds is something so different from being on stage. When I’m on stage I go into a trance. Actually I’m not sure what happens to me, but I lock everything else out. It’s like I black out.  Then suddenly the show’s over and hopefully everything has gone well.

You’ve made a video for the song … is that something you enjoy?

Yes, very much. I love throwing around ideas and being creative visually. The video will be finished soon and I can’t wait to see it. It was a great working with Niels Windtfelt again (director who also made the video for Higher).

The publicity shot for the single is full on vamp with a floral twist. Who came up with the concept?

A photographer I’ve started working with called Ida Bjørvik.  We did my first beauty shoots in a proper studio and it was so much fun! Ida is great to work with, very creative and the flower was her idea. I enjoy making visual stories to the music, and I feel like the cover can convey a different side to the same story.

ARY Press Photo Ida Bjorvik

And finally any plans for Ary to tour UK&I?

Absolutely.  I’m playing Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen in London on 30th May (details https://m.facebook.com/events/398379800547731/ )

Ary’s single Childhood Dreams is available on all digital channels via Petroleum Records.

 

Ane Bjerkan Releases Thoughtful Debut ‘Cherry Blossoms’

Press Photo: Terje Trobe

“We live in a time abounding with opportunity, self-realisation and pressure to perform. It can be hard to navigate, to find a landing site in this insecure and unsettling world. Cherry Blossoms is about the joy you experience when you believe that you’ve found a landing site – even if it is different to what you expected.” – Ane Bjerkan

I’ve become accustomed to hearing Norwegian singer/songwriter Ane Bjerkan’s voice float across the soundscapes of Østfrost, the Trondheim based band which she has fronted for some years.  So, it comes as both an interesting and refreshing change to hear how she has reshaped that rich and textured vocal, adapting it to the new, uncharted landscape of her sole creation. Unsurprisingly, that dreamily melodic and quietly confident voice has acclimatised perfectly to Ane’s pensively evocative music.

Ane Bjerkan decided several months ago to follow her instincts, taking that ever daunting leap of faith which saw her decamp for several weeks to Ocean Sound Recordings on the island of Giske.  There she worked with producers Kenneth Ishak (Beezewax) and Marcus ‘Bror’ Forsgren (Jaga Jazzist, Gold Celeste), on material for her upcoming debut solo album due early Autumn, from which her single Cherry Blossoms is the lead track.

Where the black shadows of the Aksla mountains meet the magical iridescence of the North Sea, Ane’s music is imbued with a sense of propinquity and peaceful serenity seldom heard

Working with a small but diverse group of artisan musicians, Bjerkan was able to dip into an eclectic treasure trove of instruments including cello, saxophone and synths.  Although Ane’s trademark Indian Harmonium takes centre stage, it never dominates the score. Neither does it consume a vocal which cleverly pushed to the fore, hovers effortlessly above the songs slow-tempoed melodic strains.

Ane Bjerkan’s sounds feature folk and pop flavoured with jazz, delivered with lovely, soulful vocals and evocative melodies. A pastoral underpinned by bass-harmonium muddled with cello, Cherry Blossoms is beautifully ornamented with jewel-like prisms of synth that emulate the ticking of a clock.  While the song has incredible depth and a multiplicity of textures it seems at times to be somewhat concealed in half-shadows. The introduction midway through of a gorgeous sax solo adds a golden, illuminating warmth that lifts the track into a more optimistic realm – the joyous arrival at the ‘landing site’.

Cherry Blossoms is a heartfelt, beautiful mix of joyful, introspective and melancholy. Wrap your ears around it soon.

Cherry Blossoms is out now via Pisco Records. Ane will be hosting a release party from 6pm in Mono, Oslo on 22nd April. For further details on both the single and event see Ane’s Facebook page.  DervSwerve

Spotify: http://spoti.fi/2nY2sfd
Itunes: http://apple.co/2ptGLn8
Tidal: https://tidal.com/track/72159200

Is Charlotte Church’s Pop Dungeon The New Rocky Horror?

Not since the walls of every venue in the land echoed with the rousing chorus of ‘Time Warp’ have we witnessed such a frenzied response to an on-stage production, one which many music snobs would deem more ‘70s kitsch than ‘George & Mildred’, the Cinzano ad series and Sweet put together!

Viewed from a distance Charlotte Church’s Pop Dungeon is like Multi-Coloured Swap Shop meets Rainbow for drag queens, but on closer inspection this is an altogether cleverer concept than one might at first realise.  Set against a backdrop of the glam era that manifested itself throughout British popular culture in the ’70s, Church allows her concept to come into being. The catalyst for this ‘kitschella’ seems to have been the singer’s desire to steer her career in the direction of a “be true to thine own (unconventional) self” approach, one which sees the ‘fun-factor’ dial up turned up to the max.

Recently, that close-up pleasure was all mine, when the former ‘Voice of an Angel’ now trading as the Dominatrix of the Dungeon Dimensions (my term, not hers) brought her rainbow hued sparklefest to Dublin.

A sparse and pretty diverse early crowd soon blossomed into a heaving swarm of Church acolytes for what was to become an extravaganza of the weird and wonderful delivered “in the best possible taste” as Cupid Stunt, creation of the late Kenny Everett would say.  In fact, if Everett were still alive I have no doubt he’d be up front centre, if not on-stage, lapping up every delicious second of this glam rock meets vaudeville spectacular.

Pop Dungeon is a vibrant, melting pot of cover songs morphed, reshaped, and segued in the most breathtakingly innovative ways; perfectly synced mash-ups, of disparate songs, which only the keenest of creative minds and sharpest of musical ears could re-imagine. Its set-list is a colourful riot, a neon-bright, eclectic pick ‘n mix of indie, 80s, disco, rap, rock anthems and off the wall oddities, which on paper, does not and should not work. But it does, and bloody wonderfully at that!

On the night, Talking Heads’ Burning Down The House comes hot on the heels of Nelly’s Hot in Herre, while Trousersnake parleys with Thom during a Cry Me/ParAndroid muddle.  The Edwin Starr classic soul banger War is given full turbo treatment while Missy Elliot is treated with all the funked up respect she deserves.  “We’re a democracy here in Pop Dungeon” coos the singer as she passes the baton to her choir of ‘Charlie’s Angel’s who in turn perform lush covers of everything from M.I.A to Rage Against The Machine.

Set highlights include two Beyoncé numbers, an En Vogue cover and two Prince homages, the latter of which is a stunning rendition of Diamonds & Pearls, which Church morphs into a magnificent operatic scale-sweeper as she effortlessly traces the theme tune to E.T. . A performance so magical it renders speechless, an otherwise rambunctious crowd.

The handful of times when Church lets her former opera-star self come to the fore are without doubt some of the most spectacular elements of this multi-dimensional megamix.  At her subtlest, on 10CC’s I’m Not In Love and encore opener Hide & Seek, she is possibly at her most quietly triumphant.

Going to see Pop Dungeon isn’t just like attending any other gig.  This is an high quality, off the radar innovative and beyond-Bolt dynamic carnivale of entertainment, performed by a ten-strong troupe of extremely colourful, enthusiastic and talented artists who by all accounts, have a wonderful chemistry and marvellous rapport.

And, might I also point out, that Pop Dungeon are possibly the friendliest on-stage artists I have ever come across – their constantly smiling, happy interaction with the crowd was something I have never previously witnessed! Kudos!

Pop Dungeon is leading the ‘karaoke’ zeitgeist with Church turning the crime f.k.a ‘cover versions’ into a professional ‘coverfest’ that has the potential to become the next big thing. An unorthodox creation that Charlotte Church has taken and made her own, it is a project with which she has undeniably proven herself as innovator, arranger and producer.  It is not beyond this audacious Welsh woman to up the ante, and upscale to a full bells and whistles ‘grand production’, a Cirque du Soleil of the music world, brimful of fascinating wonders and wildly creative goings on.

In many ways, with its kitsch glamour and innovative wackiness, Pop Dungeon is the Rocky Horror Show of the 21st century. Like its cult musical predecessor, it has all the outré sensibilities, off-the-wall ingenuity and addictive magnetism required to gain a global cult following.

An all-out camp creative triumph, a critical and one would hope commercial success, Pop Dungeon has put Charlotte Church back to the fore of modern pop-culture where she belongs. All hail Queen “Charlotte, Charlotte, Charlotte, fucking Church”.

Pop Dungeon tours until 12 May – check here for details.

DervSwerve

Discover #Brexit – Music To Break Up To

Photo: Christopher Furlong

As Article 50 is triggered and the process of taking Britain out of the EU aka #Brexit becomes a reality … did you experience that surreal Donald Trump-esque WTF vibe too? … it’s an appropriate time to launch our new music series, ‘Discover #Brexit’.  This UK focussed series will feature songs, possible anthems, which, over the course of the next few years, will help see Britain through its biggest state of flux since WW2.

The series, which will run in tandem with my new Discover Ireland series, will mainly but not exclusively feature artists supported by the wonderful folks over at BBC Introducing.  Some of you will already be aware that I am a volunteer moderator, reviewer and flag flier over at new music artist support hub Fresh on the Net. During my two-year tenure, I have seen at first-hand the challenges new music artists have to overcome to get their name known and music heard. Which is why helping to promote new artists and music has pretty much become a passion!

I’ve witnessed fab bands like False Advertising, Vryll Society and Estrons (work extremely hard to) get their heads above the media parapet, while superb acts like Bryde, Tiny Folds, Cascades, Jazz Morley, The Trusted and War Against Sleep have all had music featured by their respective regional BBC Intro hubs.  Some were even lucky enough to snaffle a slot on the highly prized BBC Intro Saturday Night lives.

The aim of this Discover series, is to highlight up and coming emerging music artists in addition to bringing music from some of Britain’s finest to, if not your doorsteps, then your laptops, iPads, smartphones & co by way of an ever-changing Spotify playlist.

So, without further ado, let’s get the party started.

Dutch Criminal Record

Who? DUTCH CRIMINAL RECORD

Possibly one of my favourite bands of the now, I first came across Chichester based Dutch Criminal Record back in 2015 when I reviewed their hotly faved track ‘Socks and Sandals’ for Fresh on the Net.  They describe their music as ‘indie surf’, I describe it as f**kin’ cosmic.

This is my kinda indie – golden glow vocals, clever guitar riffs and a ‘locktite’ rhythm section.  There’s plenty of instrumental talent, spades of ingenuity and some mighty catchy songwriting behind this fun four-piece, super-popular with music fans and tipsters alike. They’ve successfully pushed four songs through the FOTN machine in addition to having their music featured on sundry Spotify playlists and the BBC Introducing MixTape.  With some gigs coming up including one in London you should keep an eye on their FB page.

While I’ve a thing for their current single ‘Change of Heart’, all warm melodies and renegade guitar riffs, they’ve just released a Super8 shot vid for their track ‘Stuck Between’, here it is, just for you!

WHO? HONEYBLOOD

Glasgow duo Honeyblood released their Babes Never Die album last winter, since which they’ve been all over BBC radio playlists like Piers Morgan on Twitter. Most recently they bagged one of the coveted slots at the 6 Music Festival which, conveniently for them, was held in their home town.

They’re currently upside down in Oz, next stop Singapore, which must come in at a considerably higher ranking on the wow factor scale than Lanarkshire.

Stina Tweeddale and Cat Myers make up Honeyblood, the former on vocal/guitar duties with the latter on drums.  Their sound could best be described as hard and fast, urgent thunder while their vibe screams empowerment and an abundance of une énergie furieuse.  There are traces of pop sensibilities and some softer pop-rock melodies, but the overall style is grunge with a metal shard stuck up its ass. It’s a bit Sleater Kinney with knobs on and all the sass of The Slits, and puts Honeyblood up there with other alt-rock cum neo-punk zeitgeisters such as Wolf Alice, Sløtface and Black Honey.

April will see the pair face into an extensive round of live dates kicking off at Galway’s electic Roisin Dubh (they play Whelans Dublin on Saturday 8th, makes note to check diary) before working through various venues across the UK, wrapping up at London’s Koko in June. Dig into the ‘5th Element’ like visual for their single ‘Sea Hearts’ here.

WHO? DAYFLOWER

Leicester based fuzzsters Dayflower, confectioners of sweet n sticky sugar pop and general all-round reverb-festooned indie dudes.  Another band who’ve won the hearts of FOTN and BBC Intro with their deliciously hypnotic, drone infused anthems.

The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and general Leicester lege David Dhonau (of dystopian hip hop collective ‘1,000,000,000,000 o’clock’ fame  … no words!) and Norfolk blow-in Alex Clemence, Dayflower has been through a few transitions of late resulting in a more tightly knit and focused unit whose sound has, as a result of its metamorphoses, evolved extensively.

Their most recent double A – ‘Neverfriend/Seeing Up’ – sees the band diffuse an edgier, more acerbically grungy tang through their candy-pop drone, giving it more balance while still retaining its original lo-fi sensibilities.  Gone is the smartie-sweetness of previous tracks, replaced with richer, darker and more textured sound fx, putting Dayflower’s drone into the same category as gaze pioneers, MBV.

Curators of the now notorious Candy Dust club-nights, Dayflower’s following has grown to epic proportions well beyond Leicester’s borders, as word of their proactive promotion of a plethora of new music artists from across the spectrum spreads like honey on toast.

Their latest video for the single ‘Seeing Up’, sees sequences of psychedelic fade merge with some captivating drone footage, making for one hell of a mind-bending, awe-inspiring visual.  Watch it here.

WHO? HARLEA

Photo Disorder UK

The London based blues-rock singer is a grittier, sassier Duffy for 2017.  Everything leans towards sixties flecked blue-eyed soul but the grinding rock n’ roll guitar content adds dangerous levels of toxicity. Birmingham born Harlea was snapped up by 0E0E singles label of Propeller Recordings  before releasing two tracks ‘Miss Me’ and ‘You Don’t Get It’.

Harlea’s voice, flecked with golden undertones, is one almighty powerful weapon of vocal force.  It’s determined, stubborn sassiness trimmed with melodic soul, like a turbo-charged Maserati replete with soft, beige leather upholstery. Light to the shade. Omega to the Alpha.

And that’s the thing with Harlea – she is a young woman performing in a genre that is predominantly male. One in which only the gutsiest of females – Chrissie Hynde, Bonnie Raitt, Tina Turner, Stevie Nicks – thrived and survived.  Something tells me that Harlea is both well capable and equipped to do likewise.

Playlisted by every major UK radio station and currently doing the interview-rounds with big glossies such as Vogue and Elle, Harlea is set to take 2017 by the scruff and make it her own.

WHO? TEMPLES OF YOUTH

Originally a three-piece called Shallows, this Winchester based outfit downed tools, took stock, did some skin shedding and reinvented themselves as electronic duo Temples of Youth. Jo Carson on vocals and percussion with Paul Gumma on guitar make up this rather thoughtful and unpretentious outfit.  With more of a social and political consciousness than most, their last single was an ode to lost futures in a post-Brexit Britain, although given its inevitable pessimism dirge is probably a more apt description.

Frequent flyers on the airwaves of both BBC Intro South and Solent (the latter having snaffled some of the former’s terroir), Temples have also featured on FOTN and the BBC Mixtape, and have been playlisted by Beeb heavyweights such as Steve Lamacq, Huw Stephens and Dermot O’Leary. In fact, all of their five singles have received airplay between the Beeb Big 3 – 1/2/and 6.

The duo are constantly on the go, writing, recording, gigging and actively seeking out new ways through which to get their music heard.  Most recently they shot two live sessions in collaboration with Context Films, one of which – ‘Enso’ – you can watch here.  Gigs a-plenty are lined up including the Gigslutz affair in London from April through the Summer so keep an eye on their socials for updates.

WHO? KELLY LEE OWENS

Goddess of existential electronica, Welsh synthsmith Kelly Lee Owens is to experimental music as Alan Wilder is to avant-garde. Owens’ ingenuity knows no bounds while her ‘instrumentation’ is precision personified.  Innovative mining and exploration of sounds, samples and weaves are second nature to this mistress of the unconventional.

Like a musical Edison for the 21st century, Owens has forged an unparalleled line in austere electronica in many ways akin to the found-sounds of a hospital ICU, which should come as no surprise given her nursing background.  There’s something of the clinical to her sound yet it is far from simplistic froideur.  Technically perfect it may be, but ultimately this is ethereal escapism. Cathartic and purgative, it is both tangible and intangible, real and unreal. Put simply, this self-written, self-produced, self-titled album, is one of the best debuts I’ve ever heard.

The album includes a collaboration with (Phonofile) Nordic Music Prize Winner Jenny Hval entitled Anxi.. An intense, beat ridden compulsion, it is infused with the dreamiest of liquid harmonies which solidify into a melodic, spoken word sequence, post which the track metamorphoses into a mesmerising trance instrumental, interrupted only by momentary clouds of bewitching chant.

Several festivals including Norway’s Øya, Dorset’s The End of the Road, Primavera and Iceland Airwaves are all pencilled in. Nothing scheduled for Ireland yet but the year is long.  Keep track of developments on the official website.

WHO? THE LUKA STATE

Might just have the next Blossoms right here folks – ie, the next big thing to come up, nay burst their way through the ranks of FOTN/BBC Introducing  – read my review here!

Bold as brass, larger than life and twice as loud, this four-piece rock band from Cheshire are widely tipped for great things (Q, Clash, Disorder) and all you have to do is listen to their latest single to understand why.  TLS have rock n roll on a cinematic scale running striding through their veins; their sound being as widescreen as it is urgent but not at a price.

Rocking out cock-sure vocals with Lamborghini-esque horse-power, front man Conrad Ellis is capable of singing the catchiest of melodies with the most insistent tones without ever dropping a note. Instrumentally too there is a dogged determination to the way this band play.  The overall symmetry of their delivery, a testament to hard graft and dedication, is not to be underestimated.

Like most of the other acts here, The Luka State are touring their cotton sox off – full details on their socials. They have “something exciting coming your way” so stay tuned!

WHO? THE CLEAR

Next up yet another band who made it onto the boards of FOTN and BBC Introducing (musicians, are you getting the hint yet?)  A slick three-piece from Sheffield, The Clear are Chris Damms, Jules Buffey and Bryan Day.

Aside from taking a parking space on the same Fave reviews as the upstairs neighbours TLS – review here – these suave sophisticats have also been featured on the BBC 6 Music shows of Radcliffe & Maconie and Chris Hawkins.

The only word to describe their sonic style is ‘class’ – everything about what they do is elegance personified, right down to the high strings, percussive trim and undulating infectious beats.

Vocalist Julie Buffey’s voice is as suggestive in tone as it is luxurious in sound, her lines delivered with stylish aplomb and a hint of something more.  Musically, The Clear’s style is a compendium of jazz, pop-orchestral, latin and tropical with more than a hint of John Barry around the edges.  So much so that several reviewers mooted that their latest single, ‘The Planets’, would make for one hot momma of a James Bond theme!  What do you think?

WHO? CLYMA (MATT GOODERSON)

Someone who hasn’t yet featured on FOTN, mainly ‘cos he hasn’t tried, but who has worked with artists that have, is Matt Gooderson.  The artist now known as Clyma, is a musician, composer, lecturer, remixologist, producer, DJ and geek renowned throughout the industry for his technical prowess and a cinematic imagination that enables him to concoct the most astonishing remixes.

Recent collaborations include work with Infadels and the glorious Gris de Lin for whom the tech-meister remixed the track ‘Your Ghost’ (more on the way … shhhh!).  Most recently, Tinchy Clyma has done a beyond amazing job remixing the JOSH Savage//Alice Pearl project, ‘Whisper in the Snow’.

Without corrupting the essence or simplicity of the original, Clyma has taken this ‘gentle breeze’ of a song and given it another life, a more vivid direction.  In not interfering with the pared back vocal sensibilities Clyma has held onto the wistful innocence and raw emotion of the original, while at the same time transforming the overall vibe into a more energised and eclectic one.  A master of creative ingenuity, technical proficiency and the art of subtlety.  Check out the Clyma-Savage remix here.

As the Brexit guillotine falls on the green and pleasant lands, valleys, lochs and causeways of the UK, I think it appropriate to bring this to close by featuring an artist of mixed parentage whose heritage reaches out beyond UK borders to disparate countries but who, because of birthright, can identify as British. Lianne Le Havas was born 1989 in London to a Greek father and Jamaican mother.

Will the post-Brexit anti-immigration dystopia into which team GB has thrust itself herald the rise of a monoculture and subsequent demise of the diversity and cross-ethnicity that once made it the great cultural melting pot of the 20th/21st centuries?

As the world turns on a new and uncertain axis, I’ll leave you with one of the most perfect, most sublime of songs to come from pre-Brexit Britain, as sung by the wonderful and very British, Lianne Le Havas.

From blistering grunge punk through blues-rock, from R&B to drone, this is best of breed British music in 2017.  Check out the first cut of my Discover Brexit playlist here … follow if you like. You’ll find me on Facebook and Twitter @DervSwerve. While you’re listening to the playlist you might check out emerging artist support hub & music portal Fresh on the Net, brainchild of Brit legend Tom Robinson.

The Discover #Brexit showcase series will run fortnightly.

The Choice Music Prize – How The Odds Are Stacked

The 12th annual Choice Music Prize, Ireland’s premier award for album and song of the year, is once again upon us.  Now sponsored by RTE, this year’s ceremony, which is being held in Dublin’s Vicar St, will see some of the crème of Irish music line up for what should prove to be an intriguing evening!  The ceremony which will be broadcast live on 2FM from 7pm, will hsve the ever popular Louise McSharry at its helm.

The shortlist is made up of ten nominees from which the eventual winner will be decided by a panel comprising bloggers, DJs, journalists and ‘industry professionals’.  This Decameron have between them produced some of the strongest albums to hit the Irish music scene in several years and comprises an eclectic mix of artists from industry stalwarts such as The Divine Comedy and Wallis Bird and emerging talents like Katie Kim and Overhead, The Albatross.

Yes, there are some glaring omissions, notably ‘New Forest’ by Cathy Davey and Dublin based Little Green Car’s ‘Ephemera’, but this year’s list of contenders is more than strong and reflects an extremely diverse batch of talent from across the very wide Irish musical spectrum.

So who are the shortlistees and how will their opuses, or opi if you’re a stickler, fare?

ALL TVINNS – IIVV

Red hot music fan faves and darlings of the media ‘smart set’ All Tvvins are possibly the most commercial cum radio-friendly of the nominees.  Their music, feisty pop rock fused with electronic elegance, is sophisticated cool with just the right amount of gung-ho on the side.  Would be a popular result amongst the music buying public. 5/4

BANTUM – MOVE

Going under the Bantum moniker, Cork man Ruairi Lynch both dipped his toes and stuck his fingers into a gazillion pies here; eclectic is an understatement.  Electro-rap, funk, and trance are just some of the myriad genres that raise their head above the parapet on this multi-dimensional critically acclaimed debut.  Would be a more than worthy winner. 10/1

WALLIS BIRD – HOME

‘Home’ is Wallis Bird’s fifth album and her most astonishing, visceral, and wonderful.  Period. This should be right up there in the short odds category, but alas is probably still ranked as an outsider by the Paddy Powers of this world.  Heart-felt lyrics, perfectly nuanced, pristine vocals, and delightfully surging choruses bursting with symphonic drama make for a sensitively arranged yet exuberant thing of love and joy.  Recognition by the Choice panel would be sweet. 5/1

THE DIVINE COMEDY – FOREVERLAND

What’s there to say that hasn’t already been said about Neil Hannon, wunder-composer, songwriter extraordinaire and lit wit behind The Divine Comedy.  ‘Foreverland’, probably in the top three albums of 2016, sees Hannon take up the mantle of Choice nominee for the second time.  It would be an incredible coup if he pulled off a Usain Bolt like double – he won in 2006 for ‘Victory For The Comic Muse’ – but, if the god’s of whimsy are smiling … Evens

LISA HANNIGAN – AT SWIM

Another entry in the top three albums of 2016, Lisa Hannigan’s ‘At Swim’ is serenity and complex simplicity personified. An highly accomplished fusion of vintage and modern-day folk-pop fleshed out with what can only be described as abstruse poetry brought to life by the gentlest and loveliest of vocals.  The underlying emotions are so perfectly and honestly conveyed they’re almost tangible. A strong contender, it would be an hugely popular win. 3/1

KATIE KIM – SALT

Relative unknown Katie Kim is one of the rank outsiders on the list, but woah what a steal if ‘Salt’ were to bag the gong.  A bit Lana del Rey with a midnight twist and cinematic fx, the Waterford native nailed her sound on this her third album.  Enigmatic, hypnotic, urgent sounds that switch from stark to grandiose with sophisticated ease.  Could be the surprise of the night! 6/1

JAMES VINCENT MC MORROW – WE MOVE

Possibly the most talked about Irish album of 2016, ‘We Move’, the third album by Dubliner James Vincent Mc Morrow is the flame white hotter than blue fave to not just walk but run away with tonight’s prize. This well oiled machine turns over soul, synths and stylish grooves with Mc Morrow’s trademark vocal to the fore of, but not dominating, its soundscape.  Like Hannigan, JVMc does a really sleek line in seeming simplicity.  Don’t be fooled.  This is a master at work.  The critics’ choice … 6/4

OVERHEAD, THE ALBATROSS – LEARNING TO GROWL

Don’t you just love the names of both band and album?  One abstract, the other ‘feral’ in nature.  Sitting alongside Bantum as partner in rank-outsidership, this Dublin sextet are nonetheless a more than worthy inclusion on the list.  The album consists of ambitious post-rock cum prog in which they run amok through a varied landscape filled with bursts of choral deliciousness, elegant orchestral flourishes, intense tightly-woven sequences and rich elongated spaces.  Everything about this album is superlative – from the warm and expansive atmosphere to the exquisite mastery of the instruments.  The connoisseurs choice 10/1

RUSANGANO FAMILY – LET THE DEAD BURY THE DEAD

It would have been a sin had this album not been included on the list.  A testament to the prevalence of hip-hop in today’s scene, ‘Let The Dead Bury The Dead’ is a thought-provoking dynamo from a trio whose star is firmly in the musical ascendant.  Kick-ass driving foundations underpin spitfire vocals and on point lyrics.  Would probably be the Mercury Music Award type of surprise if they won and would certainly knock the corners off the Rubberbandits if they did!  I jest!  Not up there with the too hot to handles but a win here wouldn’t come as a surprise to many in the industry.  7/1

WE CUT CORNERS – THE CADENCES OF OTHERS

Oh sweet guitar playing of the Caribbean how I love you. With hints of reggae, Windies jam and low slung blues bass ‘The Cadences of Others’ is as deceptive as fruit-punch; with its colourful display and killer blow, it is quite the indomitable force.  Clever lyrics, left of centre melodies and some ingenious orchestral manoeuvres make this a bit of a well-educated and riveting keeper.  In with a loud shout. 6/1

For your delectation, I’ve whipped up a playlist sampling one track (not necessarily a lead or single) from each album.  The Choice Music Prize will be broadcast live from 7pm tonight on 2FM.