Thursday, 19 October 2017

EP: Leila Jane - Decision Maker

Leila Jane - Decision Maker

Info: Leila Jane grew up in both London and Donegal and began writing songs at age 15, after listening to the full recordings of the 1930’s blues player Robert Johnson. Following an appearance at the Cambridge folk festival in 2013, Leila Jane was described as "Somewhere between Janis Joplin and Sandy Denny’". Since then Leila has been gigging widely and travelling to the USA to pick up inspiration for her songs. She embraces the magic of the Delta Blues, combined with the sweet-sounding tones of 50’s rock’n’roll and country music with a modern twist. Her raw and heartfelt lyrics display a deep emotional intelligence that portrays an old soul despite her youthful years.

After coming to the attention of Imelda May in 2015, Leila received the Imelda May scholarship to study songwriting at BIMM Dublin, where she would go on to  recruit her band, Leila Jane & The Healers. 

It's a haunting opening to Leila Jane's Decision Maker with 'Look Away From Our Creation' as she instantly delves deep into her musical influences, reproducing them with a natural ability that is impressive to say the least. A controlled and trembling vocal that sounds like it could reach any height required, accompanied by an almost surf-rock musical backdrop, plonks you right back to those 1950's roots that inspire her.

'Woman Blues' flips over to the country blues plain, this reminds me so much of when Led Zeppelin went full country and blues rock on Physical Graffiti with tracks like 'Black Country Woman' and 'Boogie With Stu'. The guitar is immaculate and at the 2:14 point I'm in heaven, this is 100% connecting to my favourite era of music, it's honky tonk blues magic.

'Except Henry' is simply stunning, it's hard to fathom that here we have just Leila Jane's vocal with piano and some very distant but essential strings, it is fully wholesome sound-wise, and again makes you wonder is there a vocal style or musical era that's out of her reach. The EP's title-track is perhaps the most contemporary in terms of direction, a little bit First Aid Kit and a little bit Angel Olsen, without immediately sounding like either, and at this point I'm trying to think of an Irish vocalist currently operating whose delivery I enjoy more.

We're cast way back to an auditorium or old world club with 'I Got Feeling', brimming with soul and assured playfulness bringing a good ole' skiffle jam to mind with a bit of Dusty Springfield theatrics thrown in for good measure. Decision Maker closes with 'Lonely The Day', we've been treated to plenty of lively moments to this point and it is a nice manner in which to finish, allowing Leila Jane's singing to softly wander through our ears while we reflect on the whirlwind tour she's brought us on.

I really can't praise this EP enough, the varying moods, the musicianship, production and of course Leila Jane's song-writing and vocals, as well as how it resonates with my own personal tastes all work perfectly in conjunction together. She is without doubt an artist we need to celebrate and her third EP Decision Maker is very easily one of the best Irish EP's of 2017, I hope an awful lot of people hear it.

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Monday, 16 October 2017

Video: LemonCello - Morning

LemonCello - Morning

LemonCello - 'Morning'

Info: Laura Quirke (guitar, vocals) and Claire Kinsella (cello, vocals) started performing together while studying music and languages in Maynooth University, Ireland. Harmonious vocal melodies simply accompanied by cello and guitar, lend a sincere and honest rootsy sound, borrowing from wide range of influences, traditional and alternative.

In their relatively short life-span, LemonCello have played a sold out show in France at the beautiful Musée de La Piscine in Roubaix, supported Irish folk hero Damien Dempsey, played several music festivals across Ireland, and helped start 'Common Grounds Collective', a group dedicated to building a network of musicians of all genres, and give them a platform to write and perform original works within a nurturing community environment.

LemonCello spent much of 2016 writing material in France and Ireland and are now preparing to record their debut EP. Their new video for their original song 'Morning' was shot by Myles O'Reilly (Arbutus Yarns) towards the end of the summer. The video chronicles a trip down to the small village Killoughternane, Co. Carlow, where LemonCello member Laura Quirke’s family have run a farm for generations, and since its release on the the 7th of October has clocked up in excess of 50,000 views.

From a personal perspective I find LemonCello to be a rare wonder on the Irish music scene right now. We are thankfully awash with massive talent currently, and there have been countless times I've arrived to, and left live shows excited, for that I count myself very lucky. However, on occasion something extra hits you, as someone who holds constant and childishly impossible regrets about not seeing my favourite musicians from before I was born, and wishing I had been a teenager in 1960 to remedy it, every now and again a band comes along and chips away at that unrealistic sense of loss.

And yes, LemonCello are one of those acts, they are musicians who would be just as at home during the golden era of traditional folk as they are in 2017. Those reading these pages over the years will know that I'm a sucker for well delivered strings of any kind, and Kinsella's cello draws out a special kind of hope-tinged sadness on this rendition of 'Morning', subtle movements whose impact is anything but. Meanwhile Quirke's gentle plucking drifts between emotive and soothing vocals, the overall package makes me think Pentangle, Fairport Convention or Joan Baez, but the duo don't really sit easily within any of them. Essentially they are pulled across decades, their sound stretched like elastic, ready to bounce back to either end of the spectrum, not with a snap, but gently. 

The track is certainly beautiful, and the video is more than relevant, a reflection of the need to slow our own time down, personal and real interaction with those who we've spent most of our lives with, but have perhaps drifted from as we entered adulthood. It has become normal to be selfish with our time and to be aggravated by anyone who encroaches on that singular space, 'Morning' reminds us that true comfort and living comes from the opposite, and we should all saunter on the wind more often.

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Playlist: International #015 - Kainalu, Kadija Kamara, Westerman, Skye Wallace & more

Kadija Kamara Eyes on You

Info: It's been way too long since our last Best of Independent International Music Playlist here at REMY, but with every cloud etc.! Here we have a collection of 10 tracks from the U.K., U.S. & Canada, including new tracks from old friends of the blog which we are delighted to share The Midwestern Bass Machine and The Saxophones. There's also a few accompanying videos for some of the singles which you can enjoy below. Where singles are attached to an EP or album release, we've hyper-linked for you to hear more if you're digging the tunes.

1. Kainalu - 'Love Nebula' from the EP Bloom Lagoon (Hawaii)

Meet Trent Kainalu. An old Hawaiian soul whose most recent release, 'Bloom Lagoon' is all about connecting back to his culture. The fond memories of playing in the ocean and feeling the sand beneath his toes inspired his part lo-fi electronic, part psychedelic rock genre that he calls "Hawaii-Fi."

By utilizing vintage analog synths and a 70s tape machine, the track was born. The strong bass line was Kainalu’s initial idea, and from there sparked the other various layers of melodies and beats. The playfulness of the instruments mirrors the lyrics, as they’re about being childish in a way, "sort of the feeling of wanting to be wanted by someone" says Kainalu. 

2. Kadija Kamara - 'Eyes on You' - (London)

'Eyes On You' is Kadija Kamara’s exhilarating new single. Elephantine guitar riffs and seductive dance beats underpin her stunning neo-soul voice. With her retro approach to singing, Kadija’s full-bodied vocals soar atop an instrumental that sonically evokes the Black Keys or White Stripes school of contemporary rock and roll. As the song opens up, so too does the style, with gloriously off kilter synth arrangements and an invigorating sugar rush chorus. It’s a technicolor romp through styles and tones that are both thrillingly futuristic and classic in their sentiments.

3. Brenda - 'Children' from the forthcoming EP Creeper (Toronto)

On the surface level this could be a song about a friendship, or even a relationship, but go a little deeper and the song is about childhood and what happens when people lose their childlike innocence. Everyone, at some point, wants to escape the trappings of adulthood and run away to a place where it seems as if time doesn't exist and age doesn't matter. This song vacillates between these two states of being.

4. Westerman - 'Keep Track' - from the EP Call and Response (London)

Through the subtle interplay of acoustic and machine sound, Westerman’s voice is realised in the half-light between reality andimagination. 'Keep Track' is a meditation on the human urge for self-documentation. Amidst the idiosyncratic guitar playing, Westerman asks "is it right to lay it all out like that?" It’s a message that chimes with our generation's anxieties.

5. The Midwestern Bass Machine - 'Downtown Trash' - (Minnesota)

We've been covering the music from Minneapolis electronic and dream-pop solo act The Midwestern Bass Machine almost since the blog began reviewing music and the magic just keeps on flowing, 'Downtown Trash' is a joy on so many levels, from its birthplace of 80's East Coast hip-hop intro to its wandering journey towards twinkling indietronica, young artist Brock Splawski wows us once again. There's also another album on the way. I highly recommend you check out his back catalogue here on Bandcamp.

6. The Saxophones - 'Aloha' (Oakland, California)

Another act we've had the pleasure of covering in the past are Oakland duo The Saxophones, whose 2016 EP If You're On The Water completely melted our hearts with its tender take on ambient folk and dream-pop, a must listen. We were delighted when they sent on new single 'Aloha' which was released last month, imagine a younger Leonard Cohen with The Walkmen as his backing band penning a track especially for the Twin Peaks soundtrack and you have an idea of how gorgeous this new track is.

Skye Wallace - Scarlet Fever

7. Skye Wallace - 'Scarlet Fever' (Toronto)

Back to Toronto, Canada for the new single 'Scarlet Fever' from Skye Wallace who released her last album Something Wicked last year. It's a rollicking pop-punk track with a Ramones swagger bristling throughout, the manic drumming and a captivating vocal lead to a moment of gentle pause before thrashing out it's final 30 seconds, delightful.

8. Puppet Rebellion - 'Slave' from forthcoming album Chemical Friends (Manchester)

After releasing two EPs and several singles since their debut in 2013, the band have been working with acclaimed producer Gavin Monaghan (Editors, Ocean Colour Scene, The Twang) and touring extensively (including support slots for Catfish & The Bottlemen) as well as playing festivals across the UK and also featuring on BBC Radio 2 (Dermot O’Leary) and both BBC Introducing Manchester and Stoke. 

9. Malena Zavala - 'If It Goes' (London)

Argentinian born Malena Zavala honours her South American roots on new single 'If It Goes'. The song is an ode to her mothers' character and acts as a reminder that it’s an intrinsic part of her own.

"The song connects me to my South American roots through my mothers' Latino feminine character which she passed down to me. That fire is one of my only perceptions of my roots and I had a definite fear of losing that growing up in a different country/ in a different culture. It wouldn't be me if I lost it."

Malena Zavala
Photo: Victoria Cranstoun

10. SC Mira - 'Breaking My Skin' from the EP Keep Crawling (Winnipeg)

Two years after Sc Mira discovered their darkness, the band is back with a new collection of songs, beginning with the aptly titled Keep Crawling EP, consisting of singles "Mexico", "Free", and "Breaking My Skin" – three songs that are bright on the outside and cold on the inside. The self-produced EP was guided by an unlikely partner in mix-engineer Ferro Montanino, a pop producer and composer with a knack for film work and an inspired collaboration with electronic superstar Skrillex under his belt. Ferro's knowledge of the electronic and pop world complimented Sc Mira’s synth-driven dance-rock in an unusual way, and thus the term “death pop” was born.

Listen to Issue #014 of our best of independent International Playlist right here