Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Uncategorized

Hidden Gems: Circadian Circus – Dan The Man

Multi-Instrumentalist Dan ‘The Man’ Haggis, best known as the drummer for indie sensations The Wombats, is no stranger to music outside of the award-winning band, with side project Sunship Balloon with fellow Wombats bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen over the last 2 years, working on new music and completing old Wombats demos that never made the final cut. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Haggis has had his fair share of solo music releases since 2012, but it’s 2017’s Circadian Circus that I want to share with you. 

Haggis stated around the time of the album’s conception and release that music is a coping mechanism, and that the passing of loved ones was part of what sparked the sudden creativity that led to this album. Circadian Circus goes into lots of different avenues, but mainly explores a lot of personal experience and mental health all wrapped in this ethereal aesthetic that helps shine a light on humanity, but despite being wrapped in this beautiful soundscape and visual paradigm to accompany it, Circadian Circus is actually a rather dark album. Themes of loss, depression and desperation, it’s a true testament to Haggis. In the leadup to the release of the album, I remember being incredibly hyped for it upon hearing lead single Something Good and telling all my friends to listen to it, and upon its release became such an identifiable release of 2017 that I still cherish now… You know, hence this article in case you’ve gotten to this point and you’re still wondering what’s going on, in which case Hi, welcome to Totally Wired Mag, we’re great, but you know what’s better? Circadian Circus. 

Track 1, Get Out Of Jail Free is a brilliant opener that gives you a great impression of what this album sounds like, with an absolutely killer chorus. Bringing vibes of The Pogues, Metronomy and Sufjan Stevens, this splendid anthem is just something that does nothing but get stuck inside your head. Seriously you’ll be humming this to yourself for weeks. The production on this is also fantastic, Haggis REALLY showing off his skills, and how he absolutely knows what he’s doing here. Combining indie folk to synthy bedroom pop in a sound that’s familiar but thus far, I don’t think has really been replicated since. 

Flowerpot Men (age check if you remember that classic Cebeebies show) brings an almost Beatlesy vibe into the mix, and the chorus is particularly Lennon-esk. Lyrically about the death of someone close which is something Haggis was having to go through during the writing process, but it made for some really humbling lyrics, for example, “They rehoused you on a star / the view must be great from where you are”. Losing someone is obviously something everyone has to go through at some point, but the humanisation of it here acts as such a resounding hand on your shoulder, in times where you’d otherwise feel out of your depth and alone. In addition with that repeated hook of “I’ll be pushing up the daisies, we’ll be flowerpot men”, it’s something that really sticks in your mind, but hauntingly so. 

Waiting For Love is one of the more stripped back (but still musically full on) tracks on the album. Strings and pianos carry this track through, and really hone in that hopelessness feeling. But the outro becomes this triumphant escapade that really does leave a glisten in your eye at the prospect of things becoming better, eventually. It’s just a really beautiful song that shines through specifically. It sounds like something Elton John or Father John Misty could write, it’s absolutely majestic.

Something Good was the lead single, and definitely sums up the album’s entire message and musical theme. It invokes the utter desperation for wanting something positive in the abundance of letdowns and sadness, and that is the key element that makes Circadian Circus. I think we’ve all been at the point where we’ve craved something, anything to fix the hard times, and the hook of the track is just something so personally and relatedly versatile; “Give me something good, even if it’s a lie, if it’ll make me smile”. Haggis knows how to pen down some wonderfully written lyrics and Circadian Circus is a testament to it.

What can I say really, Circadian Circus is the perfect album to listen to when things are falling apart around you. Obviously, that’s a very bleak prospect, but what I mean by that is, this album personifies the darkest of times and emotions you can experience, but shines them in an optimistic outlook. Songs like Something Good and Not As Far As It Looks (Self Help Song) are perfect examples of taking the absolute worst your mind can go through, and reshaping them as motivational speeches through music. Musically this album goes almost everywhere, drawing and clashing inspiration from bands like New Order, The Beatles and even elements of Pink Floyd thrown in there. Honestly, Haggis’ talent writing songs from top to bottom is something I can only really compare to giants such as The Beatles which yeah I know that’s a bloody bold thing to say, but there’s a simplicity to pop music and writing with a rawer soundscape in mind that Haggis captures so magnificently here, wrapped in this blanket of modern production that just enhances every sound, it’s something genuinely beautiful and so polished to perfection it just has to be said.

For those who are deeply interested in more music from Haggis, you’ll be pleased to know that just earlier this month he dropped a brand new album entitled Brightly Coloured Creatures, which if you’ve liked what you’ve heard then you’ll definitely enjoy its follow up. I’ll let the new record mull over before doing a piece on it, but trust me it’s marvellous too. I definitely shall review that in due time, but until then, keep your ears open and thanks for reading.

Listen to Circadian Circus on Spotify.

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.