Sunday, 28 August 2011

you should take a little time, to readjust the fabrics of your mind

Originally published on Popped Culture.

Bromley based act Van Susans are relatively unheard of in the mainstream, this being the band’s first release to date. However, having recently filled London venues Indigo 2 and Clapham Grand, they’re oozing with enthusiasm, clear passion for music, and talent—lots of it.

At a first glance, one would be tempted to brand Van Susans as ‘just your average indie band’. And in some respects, they do very much adhere to this image with love as a predominant lyrical theme, married with the occasional Billie Joe Armstrong vocal twang imitation. But in another sense, they completely break the mould. Sat here, twiddling my thumbs, I can’t quite put my finger on it but there is something inexplicably likeable about Van Susans.

The lyrics to the EP’s lead track Cha Cha Bang appear to attempt to challenge the decidedly soppy, poetic lines found in most modern songs. Instead, the chorus reads: “And I’m thinking maybe she might be the one, But this girl she’s crazy, it’s like dancing with a gun, And I can’t find the safety, my legs refuse to run”. The presence of the “bang” in the song’s title and the “gun” metaphor repeated throughout the song creates almost a semantic field of unconventional love, something which is definitely present through the EP as a whole.

The second and third songs on the EP, Bones and Get Up, Get Out, really demonstrate the vocal talent of lead singer Olly Andrews. His unmistakable British accent is both relatable and personable, filling me with warmth during my first listen. Not only this, but he has a certain quality to his voice—it’s indie, yes. But powerful, nonetheless.

Plans is my favourite and the penultimate track on the EP, the intro featuring a short solo from violinist Caroline Atkinson. This unconventional choice of instrument is yet another reason why I’m gradually falling in love with Van Susans’ music. To marry a violin—an instrument predominantly associated with the classical genre—with drums, a guitar and a bass, gives their music a whole other dynamic, proving that they’re not simply ‘just an indie-rock band’ but musicians, craftsmen and real artists. Furthermore, despite Andrews’ initial Kate Nash inspired talk-singing during the beginning of the song, he goes on to deliver yet another commendable vocal.

If I were to be particularly pernickety, I would say that some of the songs sound very similar and at times the distinction between one song and the next is somewhat blurred. It’s apparent, however, that the band are certainly settled in their specific niche and have a clear fan-base who appreciate and love their music.

Van Susans were a surprising listen for me. Picking up the CD case and looking at the front cover, I was expecting to listen to another 5-piece rock band pretending to be Green Day. Instead, I was met with a collection of songs with soul, musicians with talent and lyrics with passion—simple things, but rare to find in many artists today.

Friday, 26 August 2011

but if you never try you'll never know just what you're worth

I've managed to tear myself away from my busy schedule of doing nothing to write a new post- shocking.

It's not that often that I'm prepared to go out on a limb, but I'm going to say that this cover of Fix You is better than the original. There, I said it. I've never really been a fan of Coldplay anyway but this version that Gabrielle Aplin performed for her BBC Introducing Maida Vale session really caught my attention.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, her voice has an amazing quality to it. A smooth tone, gentle but still powerful, nonetheless. She doesn't try to replicate anybody else or recreate the original song, she merely performs it as she wants to.

And it's not overcomplicated. Just a simple piano arrangement, accompanied by an acoustic guitar towards the end of the song. Nothing fancy, just a few chords married perfectly with her voice.

Gabrielle also performed her own songs, demonstrating her unique talent and ability to craft intimate, mature and revealing poetry to portray her stories.

To watch the full session click here.

Monday, 8 August 2011

i wanna be the only one to make it to the light

Originally published on Popped Culture

Just Drive is the latest single from Alistair Griffin, taken from his forthcoming album entitled Albion Sky.

The 33-year-old Middlesbrough born singer-songwriter found initial fame in the second series of the BBC reality show Fame Academy, a competition in which he eventually finished second place.

The song itself has all the basic components one would expect of a decent pop song—a simple, repetitive guitar riff, lyrics bursting with inspirationally profound metaphors and a powerful chorus oozing with raw emotion. But I can’t help but feel disappointed. There was no eventual climax and I felt left slightly hanging, waiting for the final punch.

To top it all off, the single’s cover features a fashionably dishevelled Griffin pictured in, what appears to be, a seemingly irrelevant post-apocalyptic wasteland—lovely.

In some respects, I think that this ‘instant pop song recipe’ that Griffin has opted for has given the song a very wooden and regimented feel. It’s catchy—don’t get me wrong—but it doesn’t grab me. Griffin was given 2 minutes and 45 seconds in which to impress me, but I’m actually left with very little understanding of the song itself and what it’s about.

Five years ago, I have absolutely no doubt that this song would have gained greater chart success. But the music industry is constantly evolving and artists such as Alistair Griffin are now competing with the likes of Ed Sheeran and Adele—in my opinion, he needs to ‘up his game’ in order to remain relevant and appealing to modern listeners.

Just Drive is Griffin’s first charting single in 6 years, though stumbling in at No. 38 on the UK Singles Chart. Although achieving a good chart position is definitely not the be-all and end-all of a song’s success, it’s definitely a good indicator as to the artist’s presence in the music industry. Alistair Griffin no doubt has a large fan-base, having had a top-ten hit with his 2003 single Bring It On and further success with You and Me the following year.

To give him credit, it’s refreshing to find an artist who isn’t best friends with their auto-tune feature. His voice has soul, depth, and it’s easy to see that he’s a passionate musician.

Alistair Griffin is a good vocalist, however I think his talents are wasted on this mediocre song, his voice being worthy of far better material.

You can find Alistair Griffin on MySpace, his Twitter page and his website.