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Creators Monthly

CREATORS MONTHLY (September)

Hello and welcome to the first-ever edition of Creators Monthly! Every month we receive loads of great music from our readers and while we can’t feature everyone, these are some of the up and coming artists we’re really excited about.

Indulge yourself and discover something new!

Brother.

Smooth, bright and extremely catchy, this indie-alternative band from Provo, Utah just released their single Honey along with this humorous video. Characterised by their groovy bass lines, rhythmic drum beats, lustrous vocals and serene lounge-pop synthesizers evocative of bands like MGMT or Tame Impala, Brother. are a group who have certainly caught our attention.

80 Unlacey

80 Unlacey are a four-piece band from North Carolina home-made in every sense of the word, from the band’s origins to their self-made music videos. What started as a name for university student Dylan Innes to simply release songs on SoundCloud under quickly lead to the formation of a more collaborative project and the release of the bands first single ‘Bristol.’ This song’s wistful longing for places never seen shares the band’s exuberant amalgamation of the very best of soul, funk and pop.

Lisa Caruso

Sydney artist Lisa Caruso’s indie-folk single ‘To Call You Mine’ is her final release before her debut album ‘In Feelings’ on October 9th. This empowered young woman is making her mark on Australia’s music industry as a finalist in the ‘Emerging Artist’ category at The 2019 Australian Women in Music Awards. Going from strength-to-strength and being played across many radio stations, we’re extremely excited to see where her album will take her next.

Max Swan

Max Swan from Philadelphia refuses to be confined by and one genre, each of his tracks pulls in grooves from jazz, jazz-fusion, hip-hop and more. His sleek voice and wicked saxophone on this track truly touch the soul. As a self-made multi-instrumentalist and producer of his own material, his inspiration from the likes of Frank Ocean and Tom Misch is not misplaced. Max’s upcoming EP ‘Gone Away’ is out October 30th.

Wildlife Moon

Wildlife Moon are a relatively new band from Brooklyn, NY. After studying at the Berklee College of Music, the band’s founder Gerals Edward wrote many songs with his fellow graduates before forming the labour of love which is now Wildlife Moon. Having only released two singles as yet, the band have attracted a considerable amount of attention. Their second single ‘You Don’t Have to Hide’ is about opening up and letting your guard down. We’re certainly excited to hear more from this very promising band.

Berne

Berne are a dreamy Electro-Pop duo from the UK using their music to do something for the planet by shining a light in their songs on issues such as climate change, diversity and animal rights. Not only do they help make change through their lyrics, but every aspect of the band echos their call to action, from their own low-impact lifestyles to their new 100% solar-powered website. This quirky duo and their alternative music are healing the world one song at a time. Their new EP ‘Stay’ is out right now; “Stay is our plea to planet Earth for more time to reverse the damage we’ve done, before it’s too late.”

Aisha J

A graduate from The BRIT School in London, Aisha J must have only been only a year below me while at the school. I certainly remember her face, but something tells me very soon everyone will remember her name. With only two single releases, Aisha J has already drawn a massive following with her fantastic R&B/Soul-inspired tunes and her phenomenal voice. Her recent single ‘Someday’ is the first of her singles produced entirely by herself and proves there is no end to this girl’s talents. About her recent single, Alish says this song is about ‘Letting all creatives know that despite all the hardships they experience, they will make it someday.’ A very personal insight into the mind of a musician, but certainly a worry that with her talent, I think she needn’t have.

Jack Swing

Jack Swing are a Rock band from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with a sound so big and punchy you can’t miss it. Their recently released EP ‘Get What’s Mine For You’ can’t be defined by any one music genre, but whatever it is, the sound of Jack Swing is extremely addictive. Guitar player Isaiah Ross is possibly the coolest frontman I’ve seen for a while, and unquestionably awesome-looking in this video with his rockin’ red Jaguar and standout performance. The production and detail in this track is fantastic, high skilled playing from all members and great use of crazy guitar effects make this lot certainly a band to remember. I can only imagine how fired-up one of their live gigs might be. This is rock n roll for the 21st century.

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Pop/Indie Pop Reviews

Review: Royal Blood – Trouble’s Coming

Brighton rock duo Royal Blood have released their latest single ‘Trouble’s Coming’ and it’s a blood pumping power anthem to get you in the mood for whatever may head your way during the day. The track is taken from their upcoming third album due out in the spring of next year, with singer and bassist Mike Kerr saying it was a real turning point for the album. ‘Trouble’s Coming’ sets off with a provocative punch, that really gets straight to the point and sets the tone straight away. This is an evolved sound but not lacking the fantastic flairs we’ve grown accustom to from their last 2 albums. 

There’s no denying the talent between the two rockers behind the blood, which has been evident since the days of ‘Out of the Black’, but here we really get to see the diversity of their production and writing. A toned down straight to the beat start, not the chaotic reverb soaked drums and deeply dirty bass, but now we’re welcomed by a more rhythmic dance drumbeat, with a more precisely played and rounded bass riff, but still with the distinct growl and bite from Royal Blood songs we’ve known in the past. In fact there’s quite a lot of pop production techniques throughout the mix of the track, synths, claps and piano, perhaps inspired by fellow rock duo Death From Above 1979 or Arctic Monkeys ‘AM’ album, with the added flavour of a Justice track, whatever the story, it’s really helped to mould the new sound that’s so superbly showcased within the song, and to be quite frank, it’s something I am ecstatic about. 

You see for me, as much as I love Royal Blood’s work and admire their talents, something I felt was a little lacklustre was the sonic development between their self titled debut album and their 2017 album ‘How Did We Get So Dark?’. If I went blind into both albums, I’m not sure how often I’d be able to tell which tracks came from which album, they were more like two sides to the same coin to me. Now consistency isn’t a bad thing, but I was hoping for something a bit different, more adventurous, but here we are with the lead single for album 3 and they’ve done exactly that. 

Kerr described the track as ‘Disco meets AC/DC’ which sums up the sound quite well, explaining that each track from the upcoming album will have it’s own personality, so that alone makes me very hyped up for the music yet to come. Trouble’s Coming offers so much colour than we’re used to, the maturity and the expansion upon the bass and drums linear duo we’ve heard since their inception, it’s like everything’s got bigger, yet instead of surrounding you in sound, it’s as if the track cuts right into you, matching your heart to the beat of the track. Even Kerr’s vocals sound better than ever, the amount of groove you feel with every word is immense, you just want to bob your head and dance, it’s a really nice fresh change of pace for the Brighton bad boys, and I absolutely cannot wait till we get to hear more madness from them. 

So whether you’re a fan of Royal Blood’s already, or just in need of some new rock music to tide you by during the impossible year for music, Trouble’s Coming is something you will definitely want to check out. Keep your eyes peeled on Royal Blood’s socials, because their next album is sure to be one to give your turntables a run for the money.

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Punk/Rock Reviews

Review: IDLES – Ultra Mono

Direct, divisive and darkly humorous, if you’re looking for an album that packs all of these qualities as well as a major punch then look no further than Ultra Mono, the third studio album from Bristol rockers IDLES.

Since receiving critical acclaim upon the release of their aptly named debut album ‘Brutalism’ in 2017 the band have consistently stayed true to themselves in speaking the truth- no matter how harsh. Frontman Joe Talbot refuses to be defined by genre and continually denies claims that they fit under the ‘punk’ umbrella despite comparisons to likes of Shame and even Fontaines D.C. a band at the current forefront of the genre. One thing there’s no denying though is that they’ve truly developed their own distinct sound. A belligerent beat creates a mechanical feel that ticks along at the heart of their music; more so on this album than ever before, helping to seamlessly transition between tracks and allow Talbot to fire off his often frenzied but equally thoughtful lyrics.



Blunt political statements are a prominent driving force behind both their music and in recruiting steady support from many however, the same proclamations also result in severance from others who feel they’re too judgemental. They recognise the irony in these opinions though and in no way care that it repels, continuing to speak their mind and confronting any hate in witty lyrics with examples including “there’s nothing brave and nothing useful, you scrawling your aggro shit on the walls of the cubicle” dominating second track ‘Grounds’. There’s no shying away from other charged topics either with passion filled songs on the likes of white privilege, toxic masculinity and feminism; even bringing onboard Savages Jehnny Beth to practice what they preach by featuring some defiant female vocals on ‘Ne Touché Pas Moi’ further driving home their beliefs of equality.

Ultra Mono encapsulates a feeling of doom simmering inside most listeners given the current climate. A sense of terror looms throughout but unlike many that internalise this, they break through the surface to address the sense of urgency and need for action by exploding in exciting anger with raging riffs and aggressive vocals. This, combined with the military coherence created by their rhythm section leaves you steadily riled up throughout the record, resulting in a sense of unity against the common enemy, building the “strength in numbers” referenced again in Grounds. There’s plenty more to the record than anger though; from the surprisingly tender ‘A Hymn’- a melancholic vessel for channeling their emotions and delivering opinions in a softer way, to the comically propelled Model Village, with a sinister undertone that that feels so familiar you can’t help but laugh. All tracks combined, you’re left submerged in an oppressive atmosphere, ready and raring to escape the constraints of the everyday and confront whatever darkness is on the horizon.

The main concern on the run-up to this third release was that the band wouldn’t channel the boldness they exude in their songs when it comes to exploring new grounds (no pun intended). To a certain point, this worry has been addressed as the band worked with producer Kenny Beats, infusing a touch of his hip hop background right into the record’s veins and also collaborated with jazz-pop pianist Jamie Cullum on ‘Kill Them With Kindness’ for a further twist. Despite this, they don’t venture too far from previous material but it’s clear to see that they’ve sustained a real direction and are more focused on upholding their own belief in what they should be, delivering something for existing fans rather than pleasing everyone and converting anyone that opposes.

As a whole, Ultra Mono is a strong follow up to their previous Mercury Prize nominated album ‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’ that couldn’t have come at a more apt time. The driving feeling evoked in their tunes looks set to continue, helping to thrust them forward and prove that when it comes to speaking up about what they believe in, Idles wont be staying idle.

Listen to Ultra Mono on Spotify now.

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock

Hidden Gems: Montoya – On The Hill EP

Sometimes, bands will only stick around for a short time. They release an album, an EP or maybe just a single before dropping off the radar completely. But I don’t believe that should stop people from discovering and sharing the songs they made.

And sometimes, bands will even ‘break-through’ years after they’ve split. In the case of Indie-Pop band Montoya, they very well did.

I first discovered their EP ‘On the Hill’ after their one and only music video, directed by Damien Bonnaire, gave them big exposure on Vimeo back in 2016. Instantly gripped by their uplifting melodies and stunning vocals, I have since remained a loyal fan of Montoya and their charming sound.

The next few years, I very eagerly awaited to hear more tunes from the Parisian band, but it now seems that day may never come.

I read up on them recently, just to see what happened, only to find that their social media had gone quiet and their website had been taken down.

I reached out to them via email hoping to find some answers, but their mailbox no longer exists.

After some digging, I found the Instagram profile of the band’s guitarist, Hugo Rattoray, who told me the band had split due to each member’s prior commitments.

After years of hope, this was terribly sad to hear, especially from such a promising band, but an understandable reason nonetheless. Sadly one of the biggest reasons most bands today don’t last long is that at the end of the day, whether your music is good or not, you still have to pay the rent.

Unless you’re a student nowadays or have bundles of time on your hands, putting a band together and managing to hold down your life at the same time is more arduous now than at any point in the last 50 years.

Part of the reason so many great bands from the ’70s and ’80s were able to do so well (in the UK at least) was because at a time of such high unemployment, there was f*** all to do.

I worry now that after the recent pandemic, with so many venues being forced to close, that it may have become near impossible for small bands to get by. Not to mention with a sharp decline in job security, some people might see that time spent writing songs is not worth their while. It’s a shame when you imagine how much great music will be lost to the world because of this.

As for Montoya, I feel somewhat strange writing about a band whose music always ends up back on my playlist year after year, but who I hardly know anything about.

It was great chatting to Hugo, who assured me that the previous band members were all still working on their own solo projects, including singer Cécilia Bonnet, the incredible voice behind their songs. Montoya’s first EP will foreseeably be their last, but one I will certainly still be listening to for a long while to come – and who knows, maybe one day this group with so much talent will crop up again under a new name with more great tunes to give the world.

Listen to Montoya’s EP ‘On The Hill’ now.

Categories
BRIT School New Wave Pop/Indie Pop

Premiere: F4ÇADE – Look Like Me

We’re super excited to announce that today a very favourite band of ours is back with a smashing new single. F4ÇADE are an Art-Wave band from London characterised by their psychedelic melodies and bold on-stage performance style. Their new single ‘Look Like Me’ is out right freaking now!

I’m here with the band who have come to tell us a bit about them, their new single and how this all came to be.

J: Hey guys! Great to speak to you, so for those who haven’t heard the music of F4ÇADE, introduce yourselves and tell us a bit about you and your music.

Angel: Hiya, we describe our sound as ‘Art Wave’; New Wave meets the art world meets the future..?

Henri: Yeah, and we’re inspired by lots of things, including romantic poetry, the surrealist art movement, David Sylvian, David Bowie, Dave Gahan – lots of Davids!

Angel: And David Byrne! Hahaha oh dear…

J: It’s great to hear how your sound has changed and developed since the band began, this new single feels different from your earlier stuff, tell me a bit about how this song came about.

Angel: I wrote this around the time I dropped out of Camberwell Art College. It’s kind of about being an outsider to those who have everything planned out for them and those who do things just because others do – usually my lyric writing is a bit more vague!

Sacha: This was the first song that me and Lani worked on just after we joined nearly a year ago. Our writing process is collaborative and I suppose we just fleshed out the demo in our own individual ways. My background is Jazz music and although you can’t really hear that on the record, my playing has developed through certain influences which has led to the sounds you hear on the track.

J: How have you been experimenting with instruments or your production techniques with this track? Has it been difficult or strange recording during lockdown?

Henri: We actually recorded this track in a studio January before the lockdown! But during lockdown we recorded a cover of ‘Tainted Love’ for fun, which we released a couple of months ago – We all recorded our tracks in our own houses and then sent the files to each other, which I then mixed and mastered. Pretty weird!

Lani: We had a lot of fun experimenting with instruments, especially as playing the fretless bass is relatively new to me so the whole thing was super fun. Once we finished recording all the track we had in mind we realised that we actually had some recording time left so we scrambled around the studio looking for some weird pedals to create a small hidden track for us to release another time. We found a Moogerfooger bass pedal and decided to use that to create some strange sounds. Everyone said ‘Alright Lani just fiddle around and Sacha will mess around with the pedal’. And we ended with this really strange almost robotic bass tone, it was an awesome time.

J: This year has been hard for almost every band, but how has it affected you guys and your creative process? It’s a shame it may be a little while longer before we can see this played live.

Angel: A big part of F4ÇADE is playing live!! We have met so many amazing people through gigs and it felt like we’d really started to progress. We had an ‘arty party’ gig at an amazing private art club called Vout-O-Reenee’s just before lockdown – anyone who remembers would agree that was a crazy night…

Henri: We’ve actually got our first post-lockdown gig coming up really soon! It’s on the 4th of October at Dalston Roof Park and we’re really excited to be able to play live again, it’s going to be so fun!

J: What’s been the most rewarding thing about being in the band together and your music so far?

Angel: Sacha drawing on a Salvador Dali moustache and insisting on a ‘pizza party’ on the night of the video shoot.

Sacha: We recorded this song just before lockdown and it’s been frustrating having to keep music that we’re so proud of under lock and key. It’s a great feeling to be able to release it into the wild.

Lani: The most rewarding thing for me about being in the band so far has been all the awesome opportunities, whether that’s playing gigs or recording music in the studio. Being in the band has also opened my eyes to some different styles of music that prior to being in the band I wouldn’t have listened to. And you also meet a lot of lovely peeps!

J: We loved this track and we’re dead excited to hear more! Can you give us any hints as to anything that may be on the horizon for the band?

Henri: All I’ll say is, we recorded more than one song in the studio in January…

J: Thanks, guys. We can’t wait!

Look Like Me is available on Spotify right now!

Categories
Pop/Indie Pop Why We Love

Why We Love: Saint Etienne

Sitting and listening to Saint Etienne, you may believe you’ve just discovered an exciting 60’s French pop band, but these incredible three with their totally addictive tunes are born and bred Londoners and are still writing fantastic songs today.

Their groovy TR-909 backbeats revive a classic club culture sound from the ’60s which they merge with elements of 80’s dance music and a pinch of rock, soul and whatever they’re listening to at the time to form an extremely energizing and nostalgic mesh of character. Their upbeat tunes certainly bring light to even the gloomiest days, which is why now is a perfect time to let yourself fall deep into their phenomenal back catalogue.

In 1990, childhood friends Bob Stanley, at the time an NME music writer, and Pete Wiggs, a journalist and DJ, set about to create a band which would have no lead singer, but instead a host of guests supplying voices for their club, synthpop and dance tracks.

As children, Bob and Pete together would create mixtapes of the many artists who would later inspire their music.

They moved to Camden and recorded their debut album ‘Foxbase Alpha’ which has since become a hit record in the underground world, featuring tracks such as ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart,’ a house-tinged cover of Neil Young’s classic hit, as well as many original tracks each as great as the next.

Some tracks on the album, especially the trippy ‘Wilson,’ use voice samples in place of a vocalist, looped sentences spoken by older women and children create a slightly eerie but also trance-inducing feel.

Very soon, Sarah Cracknell, who featured as a singer on the bands hit track ‘Nothing Can Stop Us’, became a permanent member and vocalist for the band and went on to sing all of their later releases, touring with them extensively.

Since their debut album first propelled them beyond the success of many artists which Bob and Pete had written about in NME and other papers, they quit their jobs to focus on the band full time and have been extremely prolific in their output. The quality of their tunes has never seemed to falter, with years of experience in their roles as music journalists, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs certainly know a thing or two about how to make a great song, and they keep on amazing us today.

Their recent 8th and 9th studio albums ‘Words and Music by Saint Etienne’ (2012) and ‘Home Counties’ (2017) have started to explore different and more experimental avenues, with new production techniques being implemented, the band are very much starting to play around with their sound.

In an interview on the 25th anniversary of their third studio album ‘Tiger Bay’, songwriter Pete Wiggs said: “Most Saint Etienne albums are a product of whatever we’re listening to at the time.” Commenting on their third album he said, “At the time we were listening to folk music and techno at the same time.” A method which certainly gives each album its own character.

I’ve featured a lot of their music videos in this article because although I discovered them many years ago, Saint Etienne are just one of those bands who simply do not make a bad song.

It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything from the band since their last album in 2017, over lockdown many artists have been writing and writing hard, and we’re super eager for them to spill the beans about anything new they may be working on.

On Twitter last month, the band uploaded a picture of a cassette with ‘Tiger Bay Unreleased’ written on the cover, something which has excited fans intrigued to see what may be around the corner.

It looks as if we may have to wait a while for these three to treat us to new music, but until then we may have some unreleased content to hear!

Something we were also given this year was an awesome mixtape released by the band titled ‘Songs For The Fountain Coffee Room,’ a compilation album by Sarah, Bob and Pete featuring some of their favourite tracks which they describe as “fit for a bar in mid-70;s Los Angeles.”

The mixtape is available now on CD from ACE Records.

It’s great to see them work on a project which echos the roots of founding musicians Bob and Pete, and their days of compiling mixtapes together as children long before the band. This almost seems a special hommage to their long-lasting partnership and a reflection of how far they’ve come.

Listen to Foxbase Alpha now – it’s not an instruction, it’s a demand, thank me later!

Categories
Pop/Indie Pop Reviews

Review: Angel Olsen – Mr. Lonely (Single)

Angel Olsen is certainly proficient in her ability to create brilliantly addictive tunes, her albums MY WOMAN and All Mirrors are, in my opinion, possibly two of the best albums of the last decade.

Two months ago, American film director Miranda July released the trailer for her forthcoming film KAJILLIONAIRE, a comedy starring Evan Rachel Wood and Richard Jenkins. In the trailer, we first heard Olsen’s eerie new cover of the 1962 classic by Bobby Vinton – Mr. Lonely.

The track, created especially for the film by Olsen and the film’s composer Emile Mosseri, is a chilling new rendition of this world-renowned classic, and certainly the most cinematic track we’ve ever heard from Olsen.

The films full soundtrack is set to be released soon on the 25th of September, but right now Olsen’s track is available to listen to in full on her Spotify.

The new film follows a family of con-artists training their daughter to pull off a heist to make them “kajillionaire” rich, and is out in cinemas on the 9th of October (UK).

Olsen spoke about how excited she was to be working with the film’s writer and director Miranda July, saying in a statement “Suddenly there she was, THE MIRANDA JULY in my text messages.”

The trailer’s use of modern covers of classic songs isn’t the first time we’ve seen this being done and seems to have become a popular trend amongst filmmakers and film composers since the release of James Mangold’s Logan trailer, starring Hugh Jackman. The trailer used a specially remastered version of Johnny Cash’s classic and deeply moving Hurt.

Warner Brothers added to this trend recently with the trailer for their upcoming film The Batman, which used a newly composed and equally haunting cover of Nirvana’s Something In The Way.

It can often feel brave of artists to cover such well-known songs, but Olsen and Mosseri have certainly pulled this one out of the bag for their new and unsettling interpretation, which they say “represents the feelings behind the film.”

Their single is available to listen to on Spotify now, as well as all of Angel Olsen brilliant solo albums.

Categories
Jazz/Blues New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Punk/Rock Why We Love

Why We Love: The Avalanches

It’s rare to find a band who you can say do things truly differently, who create new tracks from chopped up old ones and who utilise comedy throughout their music, but what’s even rarer is finding a band who do that all as superb as The Avalanches – a band who come out with great tune after great tune, even some that are purely hysterical.

The Avalanches have been releasing music since the early 2000s, and their music videos online have drawn in millions of views for their sheer class and creativity.

The Australian electronic music group first became known for their highly creative use of sampling (using snippets of other records), something which was popularised in 80’s hip-hop music.

In recent years, sampling has perhaps been given a bad rep, mainly due to artists blatantly ripping off other songs and claiming it was ‘sampled’ (*cough* Drake *cough* Rizzle Kicks).

Avalanches, on the other hand, have truly brought this type of music back to what it was supposed to be, a band who truly use their brains to create new original songs out of the bits and bobs of other records.

Their debut album Since I Left You is considered by the wider music industry to be one of the best albums of the early 2000s – Robbie Chater, one of the founding members of the band, estimated in an interview with Sound On Sound magazine that the entire album contained around 3,500 samples, all of which were ripped from vinyl records using equipment at Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne.

The Avalanches are truly a band that offers something for everyone. Each of their songs seems almost worlds apart from the next, but each still retains that same playfulness we’ve come to love.

Their ever-changing lineup of multi-instrumentalists has changed frequently throughout the years and ensures their music never sounds the same.

Since the rise of YouTube, their viral music videos have seemed to play a more major role in people finding their music. Their mind-boggling video for ‘Frontier Psychiatrist,’ the band’s second-ever release, was the video that first caught my attention. Robbie Chater’s background as a film student at the time of the band’s formation may have been one of the biggest contributing factors to the creation of their now-famous videos. Since then, the band have won many film awards for their humorous, creative and at times positively bewildering concepts.

We’ve seen many bands ‘get big quick’ by releasing music videos which go viral. Today, for a lot of bands, this seems to be an attractive way to getting yourself noticed (if your video concept is good enough that is). Bands like PSY and OKGO are a prime example of artists whose music you probably wouldn’t have heard if it weren’t for their online presence.

Although The Avalanches videos are just as brilliant, they’ve proven that unlike other bands, people come for the videos but stay for the music.

Since the release of their second album in 2016, which followed a long hiatus since the band’s debut in 2001, we’ve seen them to be incredibly active this year; releasing single after single and collaborating with various artists including Denzel Curry.

The Avalanches have often relied on playing with the sounds of other artists, but this is the first time we’ve seen them extensively collaborate with established acts.

We’re very excited to see what lies in wait for this awesome band and hope that their next album lives up to their previous 18-22 track LP’s. The Avalanches music is quite simply a treat, from their lyrics to their videos, their creative, playful personas shine through in almost every aspect of the band, and we’re glad to have them back!

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Reviews

Hidden Gems: Soul Punk – Patrick Stump

Next year marks the 10th anniversary of Patrick Stump’s first solo album ‘Soul Punk’, released during Fall Out Boy’s hiatus, this record is a favourite of mine and at the time, really showed off Stump’s talent in a way that no one had ever seen before. People knew he was a phenomenal singer, but this album showed off his skills in so many ways. Stump made a soulful, RnB, pop album, and played every instrument, wrote every song and produced every track. After being known as the singer from Fall Out Boy, here we got to see just how much talent was waiting to burst out of just one man. But despite generally positive reviews, the album didn’t do as well as it should have, and to this day is hardly known about unless you’re a pretty die hard Stump or Fall Out Boy fan. Stump commented on the record saying “When it comes to pop music, there’s this perception that all you have to do is press a button on your iPad, but I wanted to make it with love and put a lot into it. A lot of people asked, ‘Where did you get the drum sounds?’ I played them. ‘What synth plug-in was that?’ I played all the synths. ‘How’d you get that bass tone?’ It’s a bass. I really wanted to put in the effort, even if people might not notice.” to the extent of the album art as well, making a point of using real materials and not just photoshopping shapes onto the artwork. The record as a whole talks about greed and paranoia and the effects of which and how they influence each other, as well as dealing with innocence and even death. So on that cheery note, join me as I go through the hidden gem that is Patrick Stump’s Soul Punk. 

A complete U-turn from the pop punk roots of Fall Out Boy, now on hiatus, Stump sought out to make an album with a sound he wanted to make, with nothing out of bounds. Citing icons such as Michael Jackson, Prince, David Bowie and Bobby Brown as lifelong inspiration, Soul Punk delves into the thick sounds of the ’80s. After having the album finished, two version of a lead single released, and the album ready for a February release, Stump wrote ‘This City’, which made him decide to completely redo the record, releasing the equally brilliant EP ‘Truant Wave’ in it’s place and leaving the album to be released later on in the year. With this, Stump really outdid himself just with the quality of music we were yet to be teased with. We were teased with a version of ‘This City’ featuring Lupe Fiasco, a love letter to the city of Chicago, where Stump was born and raised. A catchy soulful pop song that talks about the ups and downs of your hometown, but how no matter how hard you try, “you can never take my city away”, giving off similar thematic vibes to the previously released ‘Spotlight’. Although these tracks talk about being yourself and who you are, Stump stated the album was written a lot in character rather than self retrospectives, which is rather a thankful sign when the likes of ‘The “I” in Lie’ is on the album, a song about being unfaithful to your partner, but tracked to a sugary suggestive sounding instrumental. 

‘Explode’, the albums opening track goes off with a bang unsurprisingly, an upbeat banger with Stump singing the oh so addictive hook “Clap if you’ve got a ticket to the end of the world”, a song that hints at the issues and pressure of commitment, something no doubt everyone has felt at some point, singing “If I’m never your hero I can never let you down”, metaphors about cutting the red wire to defuse a bomb. A song that definitely speaks volumes about being the lead singer of a band that just went on an indefinite hiatus. But the album is filled with wonderful moments such as ‘Run Dry (X Heart X Fingers)’, a song about drinking, with lyrics being slightly concerning talking about how you know that it’s unhealthy, drinking to forget, making mistakes and by taking “one more shot then I’m quitting forever – cross my heart, cross my fingers”. There’s some, kind of deep stuff sung over beautiful funk songs all across this album, it’s really quite something. 

The track ‘Dance Miserable’ is a really solid pop song with a filthy sounding synth-bass riff. Lyrically it’s wonderfully relevant about feeling hard done by, fed up and angry with the world, talking about the issues of climate change, unemployment, depression, government and politics. “The right side’s in the wrong – And what’s left’s just holding on – And the public has been privatised – But I believe in something here on earth” talking about the power of people, despite wanting to “Dance like you’re disappointed in the world” Later in the album we get the bittersweetly uplifting song ‘Coast (It’s Gonna Get Better)’, a brilliant song with the message of not giving up, how things get bad, but no matter how bleak things get, that things will get better. 

Track 9 on the album and we’re given the sexy hunk of a song that is ‘Allie’, a funky pop song with a powerful pop punk style riff and killer guitar solo in the later half of the song. In fact this album shows some of Stump’s brilliant guitar work that wasn’t so obvious during the earlier days of Fall Out Boy. Tracks such as previously mentioned ‘Run Dry’ and deluxe bonus track ‘Bad Side Of 25’ shows some stellar solos, something generally missing from mainstream pop songs, especially of the era, yet Soul Punk combines so many genres so fluently, nothing clashes or doesn’t work, it’s ridiculous how well put together this album is from start to finish. The song ‘Everybody Wants Somebody’ showcases some bombastic trumpets, a singalong anthem for anyone going through the motions of liking someone that doesn’t feel the same way. Altogether this album is just an hour of feel good crescendos, almost laughing at the shitty parts of life in defiance whilst you sing along to scenarios from how awful people can be to searching for animals you’re unsure whether they even exist.

‘Run Dry’ encapsulates the hidden/bonus song ‘Cryptozoology’, an interesting song thematically, exclaiming “I don’t have to prove myself to you”, begging the question of is Stump singing from the perspective of the animals whom existence is being examined? There’s a lot of metaphors spilled throughout the record, some even I haven’t figured out yet. This album is a little bit mad but it makes for a very interesting, but mainly fun listening experience. There’s just some things in life that can’t be explained all that well and are better off letting the work speak for itself and sometimes I feel that way about Soul Punk. 

I will briefly touch upon ‘Truant Wave’ as well as it’s almost the foreword to Soul Punk, it’s other half if you will. And if you like what you hear across Soul Punk then you should definitely go and check out that EP too because no doubt it’ll quench your thirst for more Stump funk. As stated earlier, before Soul Punk was completed, Stump wrote two versions of his song ‘Spotlight’, and subsequently, one version ended up on the album, with the other on the EP and both songs are brilliant but the slower pace of Truant Wave’s version of the song ‘Spotlight (Oh Nostalgia)’ just really melts you to the bone, it’s a really sincere song about how you don’t need something or someone else to prove your worth, and that “You can be your own spotlight”, a message that I think is still relevant today that far too many people don’t think about. 

The Soul Punk era may have only lasted about 2 years in it’s entirety, with Fall Out Boy starting to write music together again just a year after the release of Stump’s solo outing, and for that it’s too bad because it’s a fantastic record with a groovy sound that may have been ahead of it’s time. But in retrospect, it’s wonderful to see and listen to as a gateway to the past, and the one good thing in hindsight of it not being particularly well known is that there’s a whole album (and Extended Play) of music that people can discover and enjoy even 10 years after it’s release. 

I shall leave you with the video that started it all, the sneak preview at Stump’s solo work from 2010, that later became ‘As Long As I Know I’m Getting Paid’ from ‘Truant Wave’, which is essentially the genesis to Soul Punk, which features the original version of ‘Spotlight (Oh Nostalgia)’ mentioned above. But please make sure you check out this wonderful record that really should have seen the success of it’s emo band cousins. Top tracks here are ‘Explode’, ‘Dance Miserable’, ‘Run Dry X Heart X Fingers’, ‘Greed’, ‘Everybody Wants Somebody’, ‘Allie’ and ‘Spotlight (Oh Nostalgia)’. Soulful songs you absolutely cannot go wrong with. Get in touch and be a part of the conversation. What did you think of Soul Punk? Any hidden gems that you think we should know about? Any artists you think we’d love? Let us know. 

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: Steve Lacy

Steve Lacy man, straight out of Compton and what a talent. Not only being just 22, but starting his career when he was just 15. Absolutely ridiculous. Multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, singer and producer. This man has produced music for ‘Denzel Curry’, ‘Mac Miller’, ‘J Cole’ and ‘Kendrick Lamar’. (Just to name a few), as well as being the guitarist for the band The Internet, he’s collaborated and guest appeared on tracks with ‘Kali Uchis’, ‘Vampire Weekend’, ‘Thundercat’ and ‘Tyler, The Creator’ (Again, just to name a few). He writes his own solo music and oh, he records everything on his iPhone. Yeah, I’ll give you a moment.

Lacy started young, making beats using Garageband using an iRig cable and his phone, and today is a highly respected professional producer and musician. Steve uses a technique he calls ‘The Bare Maximum’ which explains how you can create brilliant content, even with only the most basic set up. He cites ‘Thundercat’, ‘Black Moth Super Rainbow’, ‘Erykah Badu’, ‘Pharrell WIlliams’ and ‘The Neptunes’ as his major influences, and crediting ‘Mac DeMarco’ as one of his biggest influences in terms of production, all of which is evident throughout his work. He also describes his sound as ‘Plaid’ like the material due to him seeing a plaid shirt and stating it ‘looks’ like his music ‘sounds’, with there being ‘loads going on’ but ‘none of it clashes’. 

Back in 2017, Steve released his first solo work, a project referred to as a song series, ‘Steve Lacy’s Demo’, an EP compiled of songs written and produced since 2015. The year before his solo debut he released the single ‘Some’, which was an immediate hit, showcasing indie, soul and lo-fi elements. ‘Some’ showcased his work through minimalism production  and simplistic craft, but in a way that stands out and makes a big impact especially upon your initial listen, all recorded and produced on his iPhone, really showed and proved his theory of the bare maximum. Later the following year we were treated to ‘Dark Red’ which was his most notable work of his solo material. Darker sounds, tight drum loops, a groovy bassline and killer vocals. Upon the release of the EP, Lacy dropped the music video for ‘RYD / Dark Red’. 

The same year he co-wrote and produced Ravyn Lenae’s EP ‘Crush’, and with the drop of Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy winning album DAMN., the song ‘Pride’ was produced by him, where you can really hear the styles of Lacy’s work, from the swirling guitar to the programmed drums, Lacy’s presence is practically in the room with you. 

It’s with all the work Lacy has been a part of where you really get to experience his ‘Plaid’ style, and understand just how much his influences have had on him. But after releasing more music with the Internet and working with many more artists, in 2019 he dropped his first solo LP, Apollo XXI, released a day after his own 21st birthday. The album flaunts off a subtle expansion of the sounds from his earlier solo work, but with the sheer amount of songs he’s been a part of, dedicated followers will have been able to see and hear his sound develop as he integrates such revolutionary elements such as a second phone, or Ableton drum patches, all the while staying true to his plaid practice. The album received quite obviously well deserved acclaim, being nominated for a Grammy award for Best Urban Contemporary Album. 

Apollo XXI is a whirlpool of funk, RnB, indie and soul, as it talks about Lacy’s life after the release of his first EP, topics of break-ups, success, his evolving style and image of himself, as well as views on the world. The track ‘Like Me’ featuring DAISY is a notable one, split into a three part journey that explores and talks about Lacy’s sexuality, something DAISY and himself connected with during the writing and recording process. Lacy has openly announced that he is bisexual, and the struggles of coming to terms with that being raised as a Christian. All of which is evident in the song with lyrics such as “This is about me and what I am – I didn’t wanna make it a big deal – But I did wanna make a song, I’ll admit – Uh, I just wanna, just see who can relate” and “How many scared to lose their friends like me?”. Something that fans part of the LGBTQ+ community can definitely relate to. 

The single ‘Playground’ from the album shows off some real dirty funk that really makes you wanna dance, matched with a music video heavily influenced by music video’s and effects from the ’70s, all while staying modern and crisp. 

Over the last five years we’ve seen a surge in bedroom pop artists, the indie scene has never seen so much creativity and it’s a wonderful thing to see, hundreds of young musicians who would once never attempt to complete their dreams of being a creative due to the lack of resources, but Steve Lacy proves that in the ocean that is the next generation of young homemade artists, you can make beats, produce and make your own songs from absolutely nothing, you can make it big with some basic free software on your smart phone, Lacy doesn’t just make music, but he inspires so many people, to follow his footsteps and do the same, figure out their sounds, discover new artists and create. I cannot wait for the next project Lacy works on because the man has the Midas touch, there’s a thrilling part about discovering Steve because of the pure magnitude of work he’s been a part of, you discover so much more than one artist, you get the whole Argos catalogue. Do yourself a favour and start listening to the biggest record producer and musician we’ve seen in way over a decade. Get in early, experience plaid, experience Lacy and get comfortable for the ride that will be his evolution. 

Comparisons to icons such as Brian Eno, Dr Dre, Mark Ronson and Calvin Harris do get mentioned when talking about the likes of Lacy, but between you and me, I have a pretty strong feeling Steve Lacy will be a bigger household name in the years to come. We’ve only had Lacy’s prowess for five years, and he’s already done so much. The sheer thought of what’s possible in the next 5, 10 or even 20 years gives me shivers. This is somebody you do not want to sleep on. Lacy’s top tracks will be right down below, check out just a small taster of his work on the ‘This Is Steve Lacy’ playlist on Spotify, and get ready for the future.