Throughout our lives, we encounter a few artists who collide with us like meteorites, redirecting us on a completely different path of musical interest. Their influence rages continuously as if that honeymoon period of excited listening won’t ever end. You never forget coming into contact with them and will always remember having them on repeat for months as they became wedged into your heart. They change you and they make you.
In September 2018, John Maus struck me. Autumn’s gentle spirit glided in and there he emerged in my recommended artists on a streaming platform, that we can pretend, wasn’t Spotify. Many shared in my new musical discovery when I played him so loud through my earphones during a lesson at college, that the whole class could hear his sparkly, electronic tones seeping from my chair. The stares of twenty classmates awoke me from this deep sleep. I wore a similar startled look that travelled from my ears to my heart.
I never thought my favourite artist would be a modern one having been raised on Eighties Synthpop. I was the six year old on my dad’s shoulders at a Pet Shop Boys concert and the classmate blessing my fellow nine-year-olds with an a Capella rendition of ‘Take On Me’. Slightly cringe. Buddy Holly came to my attention when I was eleven, along with the wonderful decade that is The Fifties. The Cure was the first group to disrupt my entire world aged sixteen. I cried for a whole week over Robert Smith, too embarrassed to share the reason for my intense outbursts with my family. It all sounds very silly, but that’s the power of music for you. Post Punk feeds my miserable soul and Punk riles it up. But upon the discovery of Maus and his electronic magic, I turned another corner in life. For the first time, I felt completely inspired to write music of a similar style, straight off the back of this newfound obsession.
Anxiety ravaged my entire 2018. An intense and toxically entwined first relationship ate me from the inside out. When things ended that Autumn, it was the synth-driven energy and thunderous voice of Maus to slowly drag me through the aftermath, after which I had completely evolved in order to overcome my fears. He fell on my ears with purpose. It was a galactic transportation through colourful sound, a race around Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road, running on the fuel of passionate, jittering youth. A frenzy of ticking tempos and ambling basslines, of desperation and nostalgia. His simple drum beats were easy trains for my heart to catch and ride away on. I dreamt of my own trains, developed at my own hands. My music.
His electronic style cannot be labelled, but merely described. Often harking back to the feel of Synthpop that emerged in the early Eighties, his vintage synthesiser sound makes you dream, but with a greater intensity that haunts you for longer. So raw yet of such perfectly polished structure. My heart found refuge in his weeping keyboards and the comforting vibrations of his deep voice. All these notions were to be amplified when I watched videos of Maus performing live.
He roars down the mic, throwing mighty gestures into the distance and engaging in the hysterical, filling each lyrical gap with melodic screams. What I saw in the recordings seemed to be an exorcism of the chaos in his mind. He was letting everything go and taking me with him. Messages reverberated around my head as the wistful delay on his voice became an endless echo. I just felt a new strength. I was witnessing the energy I would use to break away from the anxiety that was pinning me down and constantly drilling into my sick stomach. In a way that is kindred to Maus, my release through music is so strong a sensation that it evokes a similar liberation of my soul with that microphone in my hand. If I had not seen these clips of him at a time where I was aching to burst out of myself, then I do not know how I would have approached performing live.
My music is intense. It bears all. I weep passion and the emotion in my synthesisers do the same. I too employ simple but addictive drum beats that enable a sad dance, whilst bearing the same aching, forehead-splitting frown. I have purpose when delivering my message. I’m rough around the edges, but it’s real. DIY sound is promising. I haven’t been passed around a number of producers only to be diluted by their dabbling. My sound feels old but I’m only just beginning. Not everyone likes John Maus. Not everyone is going to like me and that is absolutely fine. I learned how important it was to burst out and just be myself.
‘My Whole World’s Coming Apart’ was his main song to pull me from the depths. The sheer title conveys just how crippling anxiety takes over. He cries, ‘this is my nightmare’. Upon hearing it I would be grounded with the feeling that it too was my nightmare, but the final lyric employing to just ‘wait until tomorrow’ gave me that reminder of hope that this feeling wouldn’t last. I would fill up with erratic, burning energy but find I could jump onto his running train and chase the tempo of the music, channeling my anxiety through it.
‘Heaven Is Real’ is my top Maus track. ‘You don’t have to run away from love anymore’.
Writing about John Maus is a total joy. As much as I do not wish my love for him to be tainted by recent news of his attendance with Ariel Pink at the US Capitol riot, supporting the ridiculous Trump, I inevitably feel a change. The community of fans are in understandable uproar, selling his merchandise and separating themselves from him completely. But I must separate the music from the artist, for all humans have their own beliefs. This is life. Some say that if you still listen to the music, you’re condoning the behaviour. Just stream them on Spotify instead if you feel so strongly and I can guarantee they won’t see any revenue.
This is about music, the art form we all interpret in our individual ways. Maus has made me grow as a person and an artist. This positivity has completely enriched my life. I thank him.
Tom Houston is a wonderful breath of fresh air, and his recently released new single only continues his flow of writing successes. He gifts us beautiful tales wrapped in gentle melodies, told by a voice so full of time passed, yet so full of Spring’s youth. ‘I Am The River #33’ is just one of the brilliant new tracks from his upcoming album, Gap In The Fence, on which Tom reunites with musician friends with whom he recorded his first album back in 1987, which makes me smile. That’s the effect that Tom and his music has.
This track is quite special. Conversations of drifting piano, twinkling guitar and gliding cello produce a sweet melancholy, graced by the angelic tones of Mary Erskine’s vocals accompanying Tom’s emotional presence. The rhyme runs through…..’I am the river and the river is me’. With these words, Tom embodies the empowering connection of the Maori tribe of Whanganui, New Zealand, to their ancestral river that flows through the mountains. It is so treasured a presence, that legislation passed, recognising the natural wonder as a living being with the rights of a living person. These sentiments beat through the heart of this song. Great inspiration makes for great music.
If I wasn’t introduced to this Scottish artist, then I would never had happened upon the song, Lilias, from Tom’s first solo album, Filling In The Cracks. It is one of the loveliest songs I’ve heard. Thank you!
You can access more of Tom’s work at https://www.tomhouston.org/. Wait eagerly in anticipation for his upcoming album which will be released in October, but dive into ‘I Am The River #33’ now:
It’s always interesting when bands take a complete turn with their sound. It makes you wonder whether they found inspiration in a new style, or just got really bored with playing the same instruments….. With My Octopus Mind and their new track, ‘Buy My Book’, I get a feeling that it is the former.
After getting a taste of the experimental and conceptual approach to this single, I would say a darker feel is forecast for this Bristol band’s upcoming album, ‘Faulty at Source’. We love a bit of gloom.
‘Buy My Book’ boasts the use of double bass-laced balkan rhythms to keep your ears on their toes and your heart guessing which beat to nod your head to. Sparks of guitar fly out from underneath the feverish splashing of drums in a system of digital funk. It’s very She Wants Revenge. Frontman Liam’s distorted voice conjures up a sense of disintegration with its electronic droning, as his subversive style of writing mocks the world of self-help books, Youtube gurus and how the topic of trying to ‘fix’ oneself has featured in his life.
This track is accompanied by an amusing self-created lockdown music video that you can experience here on Youtube: https://youtu.be/w6o4HqFct9M. Stream the track and indulge……
Northern Irish experimental Hip-Hop artist, YINYANG, has just dropped her debut single, ‘Black Mamba’, a playfully powerful track full of wicked bouncing youth. This woman shows no mercy in displaying the limitless energy of female empowerment and has already received much praise having had the track awarded the title of ‘Best Song in the World’ from Across The Line with BBC Radio Ulster.
This chaotic creation is full of heavy beat and chunky bass vibration. You are led around the YINYANG house of haunted design as she sheds her old skin and presents fresh confidence with her devilish lyrical delivery.
A very cool tune to indulge in.
This strong debut only increases the anticipation for more. Lauren Hannan, the creator behind the YINYANG project, hopes to release an album soon, with even more tunage to get excited about. Stream this track now:
Our Man In The Field, also known as Alexander Ellis, takes influence for his music from the world he has experienced on his travels. His gentle voice is accompanied by a brilliant band of pedal steel guitar, banjo, upright bass and drums, from which the sweet-sounding tones of alt-Americana and Caledonian Soul smoothly flow.
‘Thin (I Used To Be Bulletproof)’ is an emotionally retrospective track, intimately delivered by the soulful tones of both man and instrument. Ellis reflects on the change in his life, realising how time can be unintentionally spent living in dullness and wants us to know that there is always time left to take a risk to reclaim a happiness once had.
This new single is the first from Our Man In The Field’s debut album, ‘The Company of Strangers’, which is due to be released this September. Stream the new single from this London-based artist now:
Priestgate are the wonderful five-piece Indie band hailing from Driffield, East Yorkshire. The group capture some beautifully powerful sentiments and set them free in this refreshing new single, ‘NOW’. It is a must to experience.
There is a brilliant togetherness about this band and it’s so energy inducing to feel the instruments really run wild with each other in this euphoric track. Priestgate communicates the understanding message of us as growing and learning human beings as they reflect on their youth. The wrenching emotion of the vocal over the track’s naturally heavenly sound makes for a more affecting adventure through the layers of this song.
The heavy influence of bands like RIDE, The Cure and Slowdive are delightfully evident in the dreamy pedal drenched guitar, soaring melodies and drums that crash with purpose. The passion of ‘NOW’ and the poignancy of their cried out lyrics projects this new single above the rest.
I feel something special about Priestgate. Stream ‘NOW’……now!
Molly Nilsson is a unique and resolute songwriter and what she has to say is always clearly expressed in her tunes. Her electronic music is very DIY, which is incredibly inspiring. She has her own record label, ‘Dark Skies Association’, for which she records all her music by herself. I was very lucky to watch her perform in London in February 2019 when she walked into the toilets and her luminous orange hair caused me to let out an audible ‘woahhhh’ as I told her which toilets were free…. I was very happy to advise an idol of mine in such a time of need.
‘I Hope You Die’ is a song of pure devotion. It is a poetic ode of absolute loyalty in the face of anything. Molly entwines all kinds of love in this powerful Synthpop ballad full of spirit. You’ve never felt a kick drum and snare beat through your heart so strong as when the chorus ignites and you just have to dance. It’s heavenly gloom.
I always get emotional listening to this track. The abstract nature of Molly’s lyrics will really put a smile on your face and remind you of that one person you will always stand by. Dive deeper into her discography and indulge in an exciting new world.
‘Sometimes we win, but sometimes we lose our dreams, but I always wear the colours of your team.’
Your musical dose of the absurd has arrived in the form of an epic track from the multi-talented Worcestershire band, ELECTRIC RAPTOR. ‘Operation Tony’ is a spicy blend of many genres, fused together by the energy of a six-piece band and their comical taste of humour.
This new single is accompanied by a brilliant live action video to illustrate the wacky events that unfold in a crazy Sci-fi tale. ‘Operation Tony’ tells the story of a group of intergalactic bounty hunters on a strange rescue mission. It is the first of their dark comedy web series, ‘The Space Morons’, to which new episodes with new accompanying songs will be added.
Shifting tempos tell a suspenseful story with roaring vocals and crashing drums in a big metal mash up. The jazzy midsection seductively whispers in, transporting our ears to a different groove with electric piano. The sounds of shred guitar and contrasting buoyant trumpet dance with each other as the scene of excitement concludes. It is quite a ride. Watch the video here now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDpDMsQC7H0.
There’s a hell of a lot more on the way from Electric Raptor as they hope to bring their untypically conducted music to the crowds, post pandemic. It’s great to know that there is such unique creativity so close to home. Listen to the track now on all streaming platforms! electricraptor.bandcamp.com
Known for their wild and unpredictable approach to music, Bad Girlfriend explode out of Birmingham with their exciting punk/garage sound. Underground venues across the UK have offered up their stages for many wonderfully chaotic gigs, making this band notable for their live presence.
‘Here It Comes’ is the title of the band’s biggest single yet. We are teased by an oasis conjured up with lush guitar. It isn’t long before the calm is interrupted by the storm and the sea of crashing drums and roaring guitar takes you under. You’ve dived into buzzing disorder. An abnormally uplifting riff seals the track, leaving you happily stranded in mystery as the whaling vocal continues to whirl in your mind.
Bad Girlfriend have a powerful presence, only emphasised by this new track. ‘Here It Comes’ will be released on July 18th.
When it comes to music, I have an open mind. We all tick very differently, so I understand that music taste may be difficult to criticise. However, Free Radio is still awful and here’s why.
Radio is a beautiful thing. How wonderful to tune in to someone cherry-picking songs for your pleasure, intimately addressing anonymous listeners far and wide. You wait in anticipation for the next random song to ignite a new interest, or tickle your nostalgia with an old one. We remember broadcasters like the late, brilliant, John Peel, who unveiled to the public new genres of music from the late sixties onward. He introduced variety into the dull routine of radio that was only focused on popular sounds at the time, which is remembered as being extremely important for the progression of wider styles of music. What Free Radio does for music will be remembered as insignificant.
Free Radio is a station associated with The Hits Radio Network which dedicates itself to broadcasting ‘The Biggest Hits’ of today. Since 2012, the station has managed to spread across the West Midlands, drumming the repetitive, headache-inducing, emotionless music of today’s mainstream world into numb ears. I am never exposed to Free Radio unless I am at work and then Ed Sheeran inevitably seeps into my life at the hands of someone lacking any music taste, which puts this radio station in the firing line.
If I didn’t make it too obvious, I am not a fan of the music played on Free Radio. Most of the songs are meaningless regurgitations of the ones before. You hear the same shallow lyrics. You hear the same dull chorus with the same beats and melodies, sung by the same-sounding voices. You feel nothing unless you’re the eighteen year old girl in the club, with your strawberry and lime Kopparberg cider, worshipping Dua Lipa because she is JUST AMAZING. When you look at the driving force of ‘artists’ in the charts, it’s difficult to see any real passion for music and its deeper magic.
What is easy to see is how money has become the biggest motive for creating. You don’t see people picking up their instruments with a message to deliver. Instead, you only hear of people sitting behind computers, conjuring up an algorithm to make unoriginal songs to satisfy the unhealthy need for immediate gratification given by that engineered, algorithmic chorus. The music is of zero substance and only plays to an increasing generation of dumbed down curiosities. You don’t even see that creator performing their words; you see a conventionally attractive body with an acceptable voice fronting the music. It’s all about image and it’s a poisonous disgrace to the beauty of music and its power to evoke so many different feelings.
The variety is non-existent. Dull routine isn’t being broken enough by the exciting creativity of talent hidden in the shadows of the mainstream monster. Musical curiosity isn’t being aroused when Free Radio is constantly spitting out chart rubbish over and over and over. Someone please hang the DJ. I don’t know how you presenters do it.