Creators Monthly Pop/Indie Pop Punk/Rock Uncategorized

An Analysis of The Beach Boys: 1967-74

The Beach Boys during the late 60’s-early 70’s. From left: Carl Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Mike Love, Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, Dennis Wilson

Pet Sounds is one of the greatest albums of all time. There’s no doubt about it.

Released by The Beach Boys in 1966, it peaked at number 10 on the charts, which was actually considered a disappointment seeing as how successful the band had been at the time. While modern critics have come to understand how groundbreaking this album is, at the time, critical reception was also more mixed than previous albums, with some recognizing the album’s intricate genius while others were confused by the dramatic change in sound and tone from the albums of yesteryear. After all, the last Beach Boys album before this point was the empty-headed fun of The Beach Boys Party!

Within a year, however, the tides turned: following Pet Sounds was the single “Good Vibrations,” a compositional masterwork that shot to #1 on the charts and restored The Beach Boys in the public eye, at least for a moment.

“Good Vibrations” was intended to be one of the songs off of an album called SMiLE, a collection of sounds that would go in even more bizarre and interesting directions than its predecessor. However, Brian Wilson’s struggles with mental illness and drug use, as well as anxiety over how the public would view the album, ultimately led to the album being shut down, at least for the time being. Some of the recordings for this album were quickly compiled into Smiley Smile, which confused many and did not perform well on the charts. This sudden halt in momentum was highly detrimental to both Brian’s mental health and the band’s status as stars, and for many, this is where the story of the Beach Boys ends. This could not be farther from the truth.

From 1967 to 1974, The Beach Boys proved themselves to be remarkable composers, lyricists, and musicians, even with the dwindling participation of Brian, though he still contributed songs and ideas from time to time. Starting with Wild Honey and ending with Holland, there were ideas and gems abound on each tracklist.

Wild Honey’s album cover

Wild Honey seems to be The Beach Boys dusting themselves off after Smiley Smile. The title track, standout single “Darlin’” (which shot to a refreshing #19 on the charts), and “How She Boogalooed It” proved that the boys could still have fun while advancing themselves as musicians. Other songs such as “Let the Wind Blow,” “I’d Love Just Once to See You,” and “Aren’t You Glad,” serve as foreshadowing to what was to come from the band in the future, with comprehensive melodies and thoughtful pacing. Carl Wilson also continues to prove himself as a vocal powerhouse on this album, his singing on “Darlin’” being particularly impressive.

Friends album cover

Friends, released in 1968, is one of the most overlooked albums in the band’s discography. The vocal stylings and song structures give off the sense that this album is the perfect pairing of pre-Pet Sounds pop sensibilities and post-Pet Sounds musical knowledge. “Anna Lee, The Healer,” “Passing By,” and the title track have an innocence to them that harkens back to days on the beach while refusing to stop moving forward. Dennis Wilson also begins to come out of his shell on this album, writing the songs “Little Bird” and “Be Still,” which are both beautiful songs and serve as indicators of where Dennis’s writing would go in the future. Overall, the album feels very appropriate for the time and features some of the strongest vocal concoctions from the band, particularly on the chorus of “Anna Lee, The Healer.”

20/20 album cover

20/20 sees the band emerge from the gentleness of Friends with a newfound grit and energy while still preserving their melodic roots. The first two tracks on the album, Mike Love’s perfect nostalgia bait “Do It Again” and a gloriously performed cover of The Ronettes “I Can Hear Music” kick the album off in style and even got some love from the record buying public. The tight, punchy pop of “Bluebirds Over the Mountain” is punctuated by loud, surprisingly distorted guitar licks throughout, while “All I Want To Do” features some of Mike Love’s most passionate lyrics yet, making the song a fun listen. However, the album isn’t all late 60’s coarseness: newly minted member Bruce Johnston has his moment in the spotlight with the piano instrumental “The Nearest Faraway Place,” and Dennis Wilson’s gently swaying “Be With Me” serves as a stunning power ballad. Other standouts include Al Jardine’s jaunty take on “Cotton Fields,” the soothing waltz “Time to Get Alone,” and the surprise SMiLE compositions “Our Prayer” and “Cabinessence,” which, while they don’t entirely fit the feel of the album, are still mind blowing musical experiments.

The photo from the Sunflower album cover

The 1970’s kicked off with Sunflower, one of the band’s greatest albums. The Dennis composition “Slip on Through” kicks things off with gusto, followed by the soulful “This Whole World” and “Add Some Music to Your Day,” the latter of which features incredibly rich vocal harmonies. “It’s About Time” still stands out to this day as one of the band’s most grandiose, powerful tunes; it would become a killer live track in years to come. Ballads such as Bruce Johnston’s “Tears in the Morning” and Dennis Wilson’s classic love song “Forever” showcase a new dimension of the band’s softer side. The sonic experimentation on this record must be noted as well, with the cavernous opening of “Dierdre,” the proto-dream pop of “All I Wanna Do,” and the intricate, multifaceted “Cool, Cool Water,” the latter originating during the SMiLe sessions, showcasing a band not just evolving with the times, but leading the pack. 

Surf’s Up album cover

1971’s Surf’s Up features an even more eclectic mix of material. The album kicks off with the catchy yet urgent “Don’t Go Near The Water,” an environmental message that still holds up today, sadly. Following this song is “Long Promised Road,” which serves as a reminder of how amazing Carl’s voice is. Other standouts on the album include the sunkissed Bruce Johnston classic “Disney Girls (1957),” the thoughtful and atmospheric “Feel Flows,” and the incredibly bleak, Brian Wilson-penned “‘Til I Die.” Capping off the album is one of the more famous SMiLE cuts, the title track. Featuring multiple segments that coalesce under a dusky, murky instrumental and obscure lyrics, the song is yet another example of Brian Wilson’s compositional abilities.

In the following year, the band released two albums, both featuring new members Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar, formerly of the band The Flame. These albums, Carl and the Passions – So Tough and Holland, showcase a band that is confidently wading into the future. At this point, The Beach Boys had begun to see renewed critical acclaim and a steadily increasing presence at their live shows, though record sales were still lacking. They were embracing a new image, and with that, they kicked down the door in 1972 with some of their strongest work yet.

Carl and the Passions back cover, featuring new members Ricky Fataar (fourth from left) and Blondie Chaplin (second from right)

Carl and the Passions opens with “You Need a Mess of Help to Stand Alone,” a funky number that shows off a groovier side of The Beach Boys. It features intricate vocal harmonies, tight guitar solos, and stabbing piano hits that roll it along at a quick pace with Ricky’s drumming. Blondie gets his first shot at the spotlight with the strutting “Here She Comes,” on which he proves himself to be a strong vocalist. “Marcella,” is a quintessential 70’s Beach Boys track, with its sultry piano, lush guitars, rich production, and stacked vocals that flow every which way during the chorus of the song. “Make it Good,” is another spacious, beautiful Dennis Wilson ballad, with his vulnerable vocal backed by a Hollywood-esque wall of orchestration and vocal harmonies that could bring a tear to even the most hardened listener’s eye. “All This is That” feels like a late 60’s cut, with its meditative themes, blissful harmonies, and mellow vibes. Ending the album is “Cuddle Up,” another Dennis ballad that closes the curtain with a deeply emotional bow.

Holland album cover

Later that year came Holland, truly a spectacular album. These nine songs feel like the culmination of years of growing and maturing as artists. “Sail On, Sailor” is a powerful and entertaining opener fronted by Blondie, and its swelling 6/8 time instrumentation gives it an appropriate seafaring feel. The surprisingly sludgy and austere “Steamboat” follows, with Carl’s plaintive vocal acting as a beacon within the murky low tones of the instrumentation. The next three songs, “Big Sur,” “The Beaks of Eagles,” and “California” all comprise a suite known as The California Saga. The fact that The Beach Boys even attempted a song suite is commendable, but the songs included are even more so. “Big Sur” is a charming waltz powered by harmonica and pedal steel guitar. Dreamy lyrics describe elements of California that are often overlooked, such as its forests. “The Beaks of Eagles” is a stunningly creative piece, featuring spoken word sections accompanied by flute flourishes, piano, and ghostly harmonies. In contrast, there are also sections of the song that roll merrily along, as if to break the tension. Finally, “California” is a euphoric, grown up version of the 60’s sound, with Mike Love harkening back to multiple iconic Californian sites such as the Big Sur Congregation and the farmhouse in the sycamores. It’s a lot of fun and is probably the most authentically “Beach Boys” the band had been in years.

The second side of the album starts off with “The Trader,” a stalwart piece of music with its head held high before things quiet down after a sudden key change from D major to C major halfway through. “Leaving This Town” stands as Blondie and Ricky’s highlight during their time with the band, with haunting piano chords, heart wrenching lyrics, and a synthesizer solo of all things burning the song into the mind of the listener. “Only With You” stands out as one of Dennis’s most beautiful compositions. Velvety piano mixes with faint, heavenly strings in a way that has hardly ever happened, with the watery production actually helping the song’s graceful nature. Finally, “Funky Pretty” ends the album with some quality lyrics from Mike Love and an applause-worthy instrumental from the band. Also of note is the companion EP to this album, Brian Wilson’s fairytale Mt. Vernon and Fairway, the intriguing instrumental and descriptive narration making it a strange listen that proves that Brian still had something to say.

Carl Wilson during the Holland sessions

After 1974, with the release of the hugely successful best hits compilation Endless Summer, the dream was over, and the music that followed largely revolved around trying to repeat past successes, chase pop trends, and cover oldies. However, the music produced in 1967-74 proves not only that The Beach Boys were far from adrift after Pet Sounds, but that each member could shine in his own right. Even the worst cuts from this era demonstrate that the band was fighting into the future, discovering new and interesting ways to express themselves. Although not nearly enough people know about these classic albums, for those who have listened to them, they will always stand the test of time as musical classics.

Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Punk/Rock

Adwaith – Bato Mato: The Welsh Trio to Rule The World

The genre-defying Welsh language trio Adwaith hit their home music scene hard in 2015 and have since brought their spellbinding sound and punching attitude to stages at Glastonbury, Green Man and many others across the UK. The larger British music scene has quickly embraced the band’s extraordinary energy and our prayers have just been answered with Adwaiths new album Bato Mato. Fresh back from their weekend at Glasto, we spoke to Gwen, Hollie and Heledd about the album’s reinvigorated sound and their hopes for carrying Welsh language music to a mass of new listeners from across the world.

James: Hey guys, how was playing Glastonbury?

Hollie: Crazy. What a mad experience.

Gwen: It’s just so massive, it’s impossible to see all the bands you want to see. But we did keep finding new things.

James: I heard that a festival had something to do with starting the band in the first place, why don’t you tell me a bit about that.

Gwen: Well Hollie and I have known each other since we were babies. We went to this Welsh festival in 2015 and after the festival, we thought; well we both play instruments, why don’t we start writing music together? We started off with a few covers, which were truly awful, what covers did we try to do?

Hollie: Oh dear, we tried to do ‘Build a home’ (The Cinematic Orchestra) and we attempted some First Aid Kit as well. But we started getting annoyed with ourselves so we thought; let’s sack this off and do our own thing.

James: Do you think those covers will ever see the light of day?

Hollie: There were no recordings of them thank God.

James: Going back to the festival where it all began, which bands did you see which really inspired you?

Gwen: I think that year Gwenno was playing and a band called HMS Morris. At the time there weren’t any female musicians on the Welsh festival scene, so seeing them made us think that it was something that we could do. So we went back and started writing then had our first gig in September 2015, which is where Hollie and I first met Heledd. We didn’t have a drummer and luckily Heledd happened to be there, so we were very lucky she came to the gig.

Hollie: Thank the lord!

James: I imagine that getting a band started in Wales must be very different to doing it in a major city like London. Would you say you guys are from a pretty rural area?

Hollie: Oh yes definitely rural.

James: Was it difficult finding places to play in the early days?

Gwen: We were lucky to have this venue called The Parrot in our town and that’s where we Hollie and I saw our first bands and eventually played our first gigs. We were very very lucky to have the venue because I don’t think we would have started a band without it.

Hollie: Definitely not.

Gwen: Or even have had the opportunity to play gigs if it wasn’t for that venue. The Welsh music scene there was very supportive of us and particularly of Welsh language music as a whole.

James: Would you say that there are a large amount of Welsh artists performing in the Welsh language now, or is it something which has yet to cross into the mainstream in Wales?

Gwen: I think it is quite hard for Welsh language artists to break out. I think our audience is mostly outside of Wales but industry-wise, it is still quite hard to get support sometimes. We’ve been looking for a booking agent for quite a while now, and a lot of them have said ‘you’re great but you’re singing in Welsh.’ So it is still quite hard but it is getting better and you see more artists breaking out of Wales and doing more gigs outside of Wales which is really nice to see.

James: This new album, Bato Mato, tell me how important it is to you.

Hollie: It’s so important to us, it’s our little baby.

Gwen: I’m hoping it exposes Welsh language music to a big audience and it’s kind of the next step now after the last album Melyn. We’re just excited to see where it takes us. Melyn took us to some crazy places so I’m hoping this will let us continue on that crazy journey.

James: What was the writing process behind the album like?

Gwen: We wrote most of it after a trip together to Siberia. We did a gig out there and I think it was just such a crazy experience from start to finish that we just couldn’t not write an album about it. We were very inspired by the landscapes and the people and these big industrial abandoned buildings. It was a bit grey and a bit bleak. We came back and we just had to write an album, it was during lockdown so it wasn’t how we would usually write together; sending ideas back and forth. It wasn’t ideal but lockdown gave us a bit of a break to work on our sound and the tracks.

James: Did the album turn out how you expected when you first imagined what it might sound like?

Gwen: I think we had a vision for it, we definitely knew we wanted it to sound a lot more developed. Compared to the last album I think the pop songs are more ‘poppy’ and the dark songs are darker. Everything is more intense and saturated. We knew we wanted to do that. I don’t think we envisioned it quite how it turned out but it’s definitely turned out better than we hoped.

Hollie: When we went to the studio we had loads of weird instruments that we had no idea how to play, just to see what sounds we could make by experimenting. You can probably see one of them behind Gwen right now.

James: Oh yes, what is that, Gwen?

Gwen: It’s a Zhongruan, which is a Chinese instrument. It’s very bizarre looking and I’m still not really sure how to play it.

James: I’m sure you’ve noticed a big shift in the music scene where bands are becoming more experimental with their sound, breaking down the barriers of genre and even working against their own established sound. Has that resonated with you guys with the new album?

Gwen: I think all of our music tastes are very different and diverse, so it made a lot of sense to write an album that wasn’t genre specific. I think that’s how you make and keep music exciting.

James: What’s next for you guys? Are places like London becoming your new home or are you more interested in trying to break a bigger music scene in Wales?

Gwen: We want to make Welsh music a big thing. World domination is the end goal. I think that the Welsh language in music has previously been frowned upon by people outside of Wales and people in Wales. So that’s really urged us to want to spread the Welsh love and to play Welsh music around the world, and then to open doors to other bands to do the same.

Heledd: I feel like we definitely want to stay in Wales too and create a bigger scene there, and also inspire more people there to want to embrace music.

James: I mean I for one would love to see more bands singing in their own language. I love bands who sing in their own accents and so to make your language a part of your music is really great. So what’s the immediate plan after the launch of the album?

Gwen: We’ve got a little tour lined up and some festivals coming up soon, with hopefully some gigs abroad by the end of the year. Just to gig the album as much as we can.

James: I’ll be sure to catch you guys playing soon. Any upcoming gigs in London that I should know about?

Hollie: Oh yes! Moth Club on Tuesday the 5th of July. Come down!

Adwaith’s new album Bato Mato is out now via Libertino Records. Catch them at Moth Club on July 5th. Tickets on DICE.

Creators Monthly Indie/Indie Rock New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Why We Love

Why We Love: Young Guv

Ben Cook, the man behind “Young Guv”

Instagram has changed my life in many ways. On the bright side, it has given me many international opportunities, such as writing for this brilliant magazine. On the negative side, it has rendered my attention span so useless that chances are, I reached down and stared at my phone screen before I even finished typing this sentence (I actually didn’t. There is hope for me.). However, in the former category, I have been introduced to countless new songs and bands thanks to a mixture of advertisements and random posts on the site. 

Recently, I was scrolling mindlessly through my phone when I stumbled across an artist by the name of Young Guv. I vaguely recalled having seen the name before, but I hadn’t investigated further because I figured he was just another rapper. However, I stopped on the post that had come up in front of my indifferent eyes and took a listen to the clip. Immediately, I emerged from my stupor as the chorus of the song, which was called “Only Wanna See U Tonight,” floated into my ears. The song had the trappings of late 70’s power-pop mixed with the sheen of mid-90’s alt-rock. Shining guitars popped out over crisp drums, melodic bass, peppy tambourine, and the almost saccharine vocals of the project’s mastermind, Ben Cook.

Stunned, I played the clip over and over again before it occurred to me that I ought to go and listen to the actual song. I listened to it a few times and enjoyed it greatly. It almost felt like a guilty pleasure; surely this was some cynical cash grab. The production was too clean, the vocal harmonies too ear-catching, the guitar tone too sunny. However, over the course of the past month, “Only Wanna See U Tonight” has repeatedly floated back into my head until I relent and listen to the song again.

I then took the big risk of exposing myself to the rest of Young Guv’s catalog. From the beginning, I was worried that Guv’s other songs wouldn’t stack up to the pop glory of “Only Wanna See U Tonight,” so I approached them with trepidation. I was proven joyfully wrong. “It’s Only Dancing” brings the energy of the earliest days of new wave, with guitars caked in the chorus and the drums providing an insistent and instantly groovy treadmill for the song to run on. The song brings to mind Joe Jackson, Rick Springfield, and Bruce Springsteen. If you told me that this song was from 1981, I would absolutely believe you. Even the production works on that level, which is a surprising feat in a world where a lot of pop stars try to ape the 80’s “sound” by throwing atmospheric synths on their music.

Other gems in Guv’s catalog include “Lo Lo Lonely,” which cranks the distortion to a point reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub and Weezer. Emphasizing the influence of the latter band, Cook’s vocals ooze through the song like Matt Sharp’s on The Rentals’ sophomore album Seven More Minutes. Moving in the complete opposite direction is “Caught Lookin’,” a song that sounds like what you’d get if you stuck Mac Demarco in a DeLorean. Gently plucked acoustic guitars meet swirling synths and grooving bass. The overall feel is funky and suave, which is punctuated by female backing singers and a subtle drum machine that hits at just the right moments. An airy saxophone firmly ends any debate.

Overall, Ben Cook and company have shown that they can write some real fine songs. They accomplish the difficult task of writing guitar pop that isn’t overproduced but doesn’t rely too much on nostalgia. Their next release, a double album consisting of Guv III and Guv IV, is expected on March 11th through Run For Cover Records.

Young Guv, courtesy of Run For Cover Records
Pop/Indie Pop Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: Biig Piig

Meet Jessica Smyth, better known as Biig Piig. Born in Ireland, brought up in Spain and now based in good ol’ London town, the neo-soul/hip hop singer has been gaining traction over the last couple of years with her silky smooth tracks and emotionally in-depth lyrics, taking inspiration from classical folk Irish music, Latin Jazz to modern indie and hip hop. But with that all in mind, you can’t hold Smyth’s music to just one style, I mean how could you with that diverse a range of inspiration? But her vibe is complete chill, as if you’ve stumbled into a run-down bar with the local jazz band pulling you in.

Smyth grew up in Spain and spent a lot of time in the Irish pub her parents owned there. Growing up around a pub setting definitely shapes you differently, as stated by Smyth before “I think you learn a lot about people when you’re surrounded by adults a lot of the time, they don’t treat you like a kid. Maybe that’s where the writing came from when I was younger.” And from living in Spain for so long, you start to learn the language which is where Biig Piig’s music gets interesting. Not only does deep classical Spanish music flourish throughout her work, but also slipping into the Spanish tongue giving her music this double-sided feel that’s irresistible. 

Biig Piig’s first single was dropped back in 2017 on Soundcloud, but that caught the attention of COLORS, who gave her a spotlight at their Berlin studios, helping her soon-to-be-fans find her sensual songs. Fast forward a year, and she released her debut EP ‘Big Fan of the Sesh, Vol. 1’ Further answering to the deserved hype and solidifying her fanbase. Tracks such as ‘Dinner’s Getting Cold Ft. Mac Wetha’, ‘Perdida’ and Flirt’ really demonstrated the talent Smyth has; lo-fi beats with velvet-like vocals to shatter dimensions.

Upon meeting Mac Wetha at sixth form after moving to London, the two have become good friends and regular collaborators within her own music and with their DIY Art Collective NiNE8. ‘A World Without Snooze, Vol. 2’ was released in 2019 and whisks you away to that special place in your mind where you can breathe easy and relax.

The track ‘Vete’ caught a lot of attention from the expansion of the smooth sound incorporating a cheeky bit of Sax to really hone in that chill Jazzy vibe. And thus Smyth signed to RCA Records, then immediately starting work on the final instalment to the trilogy. In November that year, she dropped ‘No Place For Patience, Vol. 3’. 

Really perfecting her sound here, it feels as if the journey had really taken you somewhere. The production of the song ties every little nook and cranny together into this ear-melting sound. Roses and Gold kicks off the EP, introducing some funky slap bass to shake things up whilst staying inside the proverbial box. Smyth does new things here but nothing feels out of place. ‘Lie to Me’ closes the EP and shows off some of the complexity to her lyrics; “I don’t wanna go, but this heart ain’t a home / Peace of mind, my peace is fucked. lucking out when he won’t listen / Risking trust to prove a point”. Smyth somehow just has this immense control of singing (in both English and Spanish) with such depth and on the flick of a switch completely nails these free flow rap verses which blend with her sound so perfectly.

Earlier this year, Biig Piig treated us to her political commentary of the 2019 snap election; ‘Switch’ which is a fitting title. This is a Biig switch indeed from her earlier work, fast-paced, angrier and with more drum ‘n’ bass inspiration. Smyth has said “I thought when I was writing it that it was about a relationship, but then I was like ​actually nah, it definitely isn’t. It’s that same hate but just for something else.” Switch is the kind of left turn an artist needs to take after solidifying their sound from 3 EPs worth of material. The track goes out of bounds but still suits Smyth’s voice, like something was suddenly realised inside her mind. The content of the song definitely needed a more prominent sound, so it all compliments each other ridiculously well really.

‘Don’t Turn Around’ was dropped in July this year and samples Love for the Sake of Love by Claudia Barry, more commonly known from being sampled in Montell Jordan’s Get It On Tonite. You may also recognize the directing style in the music video and you’d be onto something, frequent Beabadoobee video collaborator ‘Bedroom’ directed the song’s video, complimenting the sound of the track with a rich visual paradigm. Once again showing off her flow with some insanely catchy rap verses, bookended by delightful vocal hooks in the chorus. Lyrically being quite a jam-packed song as you’d expect with rap verses, but really shoving that emotion into the listener in a really exciting way. Smyth spoke about the song, saying it’s “my post-breakup, pre glow up tune. Finally getting to confidence through self-love and letting go of toxic relationships”. All we can take from it is that it’s such a good song and Biig Piig’s artistry really shaped it into something new and refreshing, leaving us with open arms for whatever her next outing may be.

Biig Piig is someone who needs no real introduction, just an open mind and a good pair of ears because no matter what the Irish-Espanol singer dishes out, it’s no doubt to be something that gets you hooked. In fact, Clairo and Billie Eilish have proudly announced themselves as fans, so why not join them? For once I can safely say that it’s right to believe the hype.

Like what you hear? Check out Biig Piig’s latest release and double single ‘Oh No / Liarh’ on Spotify.

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. 

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

Why We Love: Maya Delilah

It’s so rare to find a proper up and coming artist to really dig into, but god am I glad I found Maya Delilah. For fans of Sycco, Her’s, Gus Dapperton, Clairo and The 1975; Delilah is someone you absolutely must get familiar with. Her debut EP Oh Boy was released at the start of July, a smooth, lofi, chill pop EP that just makes you wanna bathe in the sun and forget about your troubles, and experience the inner thoughts of Maya’s wonderfully playful world. 6 tracks of pure majesty, with phenomenal production, elements that sound inspired by Tame Impala, crossed with John Mayer adding the soundscape of Her’s baked into the musical pie that is Delilah’s Oh Boy. And the even better news? She’s already been teasing snippets from her second EP, yet to be officially announced, but damn does her new material sound just as slick as the songs on Oh Boy and I am genuinely ecstatic for it.

The fabulous video for her song I’m Just Stupid was shot from home during quarantine, and to help make the video, she asked fans to send in drawings to feature in the video, and as you can see, she got a LOT of drawings, which is a wonderful thing for an artist to do to engage with their audience, and something I sincerely hope she doesn’t grow distant from as time goes on.

Maya’s silky voice serenades you throughout the EP, taking you on a journey that just takes your breath away, which is ironic when you consider the title of the closing track, Breathe Easy. Delilah manages to blend such familiar sounds in such unique ways that make it feel like such a fresh sonic experience in the abundance of soundcloud and bandcamp chill hop artists looking for homes within your music libraries, Maya defies this, spreading a bubbly narrative of her life. Her songwriting ability is absolutely killer too, catchy hooks and riffs that just cut right through the mix, melodies that you just cannot get out of your head, it’s infectious. Not to mention the fact that she’s a ridiculously talented guitarist, with the comparison to John Mayer mentioned by fans on multiple occasions. I mean just listen to the solos in I’m Just Stupid and Breathe Easy and try to deny it. You can’t. It may be bold to say, but it’s true and that’s the tea sis. She even managed to write and release Safe, a quarantine inspired track back in March, so power to you.

She was featured on an artist spotlight for Marshall and it’s there where you really get a vibe for who Maya is, and you really start to see from the music she grew up with and how it’s moulded her style. It’s brilliant to see young musicians buzz with genuine creativity, who really know their stuff, appreciate the cultures and genres they’ve been introduced to, and be able to experience the glee that is their talent, not in uptight way, but to really see them have freedom and crucially, fun and enjoyment in their own music, all the while staying humble. Honestly it’s crazily inspiring.  She also delves into how she started writing, and like we’ve seen with the likes of Georgia, shows how these days you don’t need to know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy to get signed and get your music out there. You can carefully craft your art at home, or as simply as singing and soloing over looped chords from a Boss Loop Station, you can build a following through apps like Instagram and TikTok. You can use your art and your passion and make a career out of it, and it’s wonderful to see.

She’s also been doing a fantastic job at inspiring young girls to pick up a guitar and get into music, utterly proving that girls can rock a guitar just as well as the boys thank you very much. Give Maya a guitar and a looper pedal and she could inspire anyone for hours, there’s just something so present about the way she writes, plays and sings her songs that can’t really be described. Whether it’s the relatable lyrics from waking up wondering where your cat is, to ignoring what others think about your relationship because you know it’s right.

Delilah is an absolute delight, and you’re a fool to not listen to her music and keep tabs on when more is due to arrive to melt our ears. You can follow her on Spotify, Instagram and even TikTok (@mayadelilahh) where you may even get a sneak preview of upcoming songs such as Moonflower.

Maya Delilah leaves you wanting more, and gives you this floaty optimistic feeling. Someone who really knows and has perfected their craft already at such a young age, the future for Delilah is going to blow up and we can’t wait. A hidden gen Z gem that you’re sure to revel in.

Top tracks are I’m Just Stupid, Tangerine Dream, Gato, URU, Breathe Easy and Safe. 

If you’re not listening to Maya Delilah, then Oh Boy… are you missing out. I leave you with the music video for her EP’s closer, Breathe Easy and just see for yourself. An upcoming artist that is not to be reckoned with.

New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Why We Love

Why We Love: Georgia

Georgia is a producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who is lighting a fire under the feet of Electro-Pop fans in the UK. Her self-titled debut album, released in 2015, was recorded and produced single-handedly at her home studio in north-west London. After years of silence perfecting her sound and a nomination for a mercury prize under her belt since then, Georgia hits back with her brand new album ‘Seeking Thrills’ and has quickly gained recognition as one of the UK’s most exciting up and coming new talents.

Georgia’s music is exhilarating and energetic. Her sound combines the best of modern technology with classic synthesisers used on some of the most legendary 80’s records from Depeche Mode to Yazoo. Her rich, catchy melodies twist through Electro-Pop and House groves creating something irresistible to stomp along to. Both her albums are a true homage to the 80’s club scene. In many ways, Georgia’s sound feels almost a blend of the very best parts of older bands such as New Order and modern artists like MIA. This unique amalgamation has quickly earnt Georgia great attention from the UK music industry.

Growing up as the daughter of Leftfield co-founder, Neil Barnes, it’s clear that many of the inspirations of her father have influenced her own music. But make no mistake, Georgia has been pioneering her own fresh ideas independent from her fathers legacy.

Georgia studied music at The BRIT School where she developed herself as a drummer. I remember first hearing about Georgia while I myself was a student at BRIT. So I suppose I was given a very unique insight into the excitement she created at the school when she first hit the scene. After her single ‘Started Out’ was released, word spread through the school, and indeed around the rest of the industry, like wildfire. A proud moment for her peers, and by the time I had left, her picture was hung proudly inside the school.

I had the pleasure of meeting Georgia at BBC Introducing Live last year where she spoke in great detail to a room of young musicians about her process of writing and recording. It was an incredibly enlightening talk that she gave, and she showed these young creators that they no longer need to be able to hire a studio or sound engineers if they want to create music. I could see the confidence she installed in the eyes of the audience and she seemed to genuinely care about hearing the stories of young artists.

My favourite part about her talk at BBC Introducing was hearing her nerd out about her collection of classic synths. I especially love artists who know their stuff, and it’s that knowledge which has allowed her to create her special sound.

I think the biggest thing that Georgia and her music represent is the shift in the music industry over the last 20 years – no longer do you even need to leave the house to have a hit record, but don’t let it be said that it’s any easier. The thing that sets Georgia apart from DJ’s or other producers is her knowledge of classic production techniques and her talents for mixing songs as well as playing and singing, not to mention her incredible ability for lyric writing, which she says finds most difficult but takes inspiration from her idol Kate Bush.

I also need to mention her incredible on-stage performance. This is definitely what intrigued me about her – and whoever said a female drummer couldn’t perform live on Jools Holland AND sing AND look totally cool doing it?

At least through what I’ve seen, Georgia has been so incredibly inspirational to a lot of young musical, especially female talent, and shows that a young woman from London can accomplish so much without the need of assistance – Georgia is an artist who deserves our attention.

Her new album ‘Seeking Thrills’ is available to listen to right now.

Pop/Indie Pop Why We Love

Why We Love: Sigrid

Norweigan pop star Sigrid has been hitting the airwaves since 2017 with her debut single Don’t Kill My Vibe, but has been making noise in and around her hometown of Ålesund since she was 16. Since her EP’s ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ and ‘Raw’ as well as her 2019 debut album ‘Sucker Punch’, she’s been building up to be one of the most iconic and talented young artists we’ve seen in a long time, being crowned BBC Music’s Sound of 2018.


In a pop world dominated by men, manufactured stars, overproduced inhumanity and sadboy folk cheeseballs, Sigrid is a breath of fresh air. Firstly she’s incredibly natural, from the way she dresses showing she’s a person just like you and I, the way she’s not oversaturated in makeup and product to make her look as perfect as ‘humanly’ possible, to the way she moves and dances around the stage to her own music like anyone in their bedroom would to their favourite band. Secondly, the amount of talent that resides within this one woman is insane, not only does she know how to write a tune, she actually writes her own tunes, spending time writing songs on her piano, and transforming them into synth pop anthems in the studio. 

She’s given us songs like Strangers which in the charts reached the top 10 the week it was released, and Don’t Feel Like Crying, which turns a sad breakup song into a banger that makes you wanna dance with the biggest grin you can produce. Her vibe is infectious and her talent is undeniable. After hearing a few of her singles, her performance of Strangers on Later… with Jools Holland was what grabbed my attention and made me fully start to appreciate her as a pop musician. Her confidence and the way she absolutely owned the stage despite being fairly unknown at the time, her vocal performance which was completely on point, a voice that has incredible range, tone and even some raspiness when she wants to really shout, and her live music. Oh her live performances, not just some woman singing with a backing track, but with a full live band, which actually expands the sounds on her album, with electric guitars, vibrant synths, acoustic drums and her wonderful backing singer Kristina Skyberg who compliments Sigrid’s voice breathtakingly. Sigrid live is someone who deeply cares for the sound and ingenuity and it shows, her live band bringing her songs to life in a way that no upcoming pop star has done for years. 

Quickly Sigrid became my favourite artist of 2019, and one of my favourite artists of all time. She’s someone who cares, cares for her art, her audience and works hard to make sure every aspect of it is fantastic. Here’s to a bigger and brighter future of Sigrid’s music. You can see her at the Reading and Leeds festival 2021 next year, but if you ever see gig tickets going for a Sigrid show near you, I implore you to just go, you won’t be disappointed.