By Emily Duff
The debut album from Dublin artist, James Shannon, has finally dropped. Having released only three singles prior, the album has been much anticipated and allows his listeners to get a fuller understanding of Shannon’s range.
As a rapper, Shannon blends traditional hip-hop styles with more modern (kind of 1980s, kind of 2010s) electronic synth beats. And as a new artist for me, and my love for rap music, I was very excited to see what the album was like - and it did not disappoint.
Shannon uses a wide variety of inspiration which encompass multiple genres and styles. This allows him to express through multiple ranges about “what he feels and sees around him to share his message with a wider audience”. Having been making music since an early age, Shannon has expectedly taken on a wide range of influences during this time. With stylistic and lyrical inspiration from the modern work of Frank Ocean to A$AP Rocky to Miles Carter. Due to this array of artists combined with own his youth perspective makes his music incomparable to most.
In terms of the instrumentation in the album, it opens with a very electronic-style intro. Through this immediate unexpected rhythm, ‘The Night Before The Morning After’ is quickly rather playful and fun to listen to. Overall, the album takes on an indie hip-hop amalgamation with its use of both spoken word and fast rapping combined with synth and often a use of complimentary accompanying vocals in the background of most of the tunes that allow the mood to be amplified throughout. Although this combination of synth and rap is somewhat unusual, Shannon pulls it off - making it seem effortless and natural. However, the jarringness of the two genres instantly heard in the into, ‘Just Imagine’, that creates an intensity to the album making it not one for a relaxing night but rather a party album.
Something to be noted when listening to Shannon’s debut album is the meaning and attitude behind each song alongside the intense and passionate energy which supports those lyrics. With hopes of spreading his music to a universal audience, he aims to “make an impact in doing so”. It is expected from James Shannon that deeper, more meaningful and hard-hitting perspectives on philosophical ideas will be apparent through his lyrics. Shannon uses observations about the world he sees to be able to give a unique and personal outlook.
An example of this from ‘The Night Before the Morning After’ is the track ‘Everyone Is Changing’. It opens with, and continues to feature throughout, a monotonous repetition of the lyric, “I look around and I see nothing is the same, Everything has changed”. As each of the songs in the album insinuate this idea of lost time, ‘Everyone Is Changing’ is the clearest cut. As I am experiencing this phase of my life in which I’m no longer part of my sixth form but have not yet begun at my university, this track seems a rather poignant idea to me. It ranges from the feeling of being lost with what to do with yourself but also the impact on the relationships you have built with people which are either dissolving evolving. Those people that you were never close with but always spoke to in the corridor have faded from your life and even the relationships with those you spent every second with are about to be tested as we split off to different cities. While it is difficult, and hormones never help, the experience I am going through is only one of the first people experience in life, its the easing in process. I think this track encapsulates that idea, a one that most people have gone through, of times being confusing but not completely dire. Especially as we are in the stage of this pandemic in which the phrase ‘a new normal’ can be heard every 15 minutes.
Moreover, in ‘Adapting’ Shannon opens with the use of spoken word of the lyrics, “those memories, those times and those moments that at that specific time feel bliss”, which alludes to the ideas of time moving quickly and being uncontrollable. This highlights a common philosophical debate between living for the opportunities handed to you and enjoying every moment you get given or being constantly prepared in order to make the most out of possibly fewer but more anticipated moments. Even the album title, ‘The Night Before the Morning After’, implies this idea both of a perspective and contextual shift - something which we all experience. This can range from an obstinate emotional change to smaller events like waking up after a rowdy night out in which substances altered your perspective to the idea of a mid-life crisis and being lost as age continues to impact our understanding of the world.
To conclude, James Shannon’s The Morning After the Night Before’ is an acquired taste in terms of instrumentation but relatable in all aspects of its lyricism. The album conveys an emotional theme throughout but maintains an upbeat and, sometimes, surface level of energy throughout. At the early stages of his career, Shannon is one to watch.
If you'd like to find out more about James Shannon and his debut album, his social links are down below:
By Edward Burnett
YONAKA are a Brighton based rock band with hints of both pop and punk which collectively gives an all-round intense feel to their music. The band consists of lead singer Theresa Jarvis, guitarist George Edwards, bassist (and keyboards) Alex Crosby and Robert Mason on the drums. It has been over a year since Yonaka’s debut album, ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’ was released. With it having been one of my highlight picks from last year’s releases and the fact I never got around to writing about it during its release, I thought it good timing to reflect upon it and finally give it the ‘Amplified Analysis’ treatment.
The main topic for me which has to be discussed when reviewing the band’s debut album is undoubtedly the deep and meaningful attitude which runs throughout each song alongside the unique energy which every line seemingly gives off. This is an attitude of ‘all or nothing’ which features in all the songs culminating in the album being a genuine reflection of the devotion and love towards a person or even an idea or goal. For example, in the title track ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’, Jarvis sings that “it doesn’t matter where you are up in this world, I will always pick up the phone”. She goes on to add that “I’ll be there when you fall, if you need me at all, I’ll be there to fix you”. These lyrics are the perfect example to demonstrate how the songs reflect this feeling of all out devotion to someone. Jarvis gives off a symbol of reliance which is so raw and genuine that it’s dependability could never be questioned. No matter the problem or the barriers, these strong feelings of love and determination break through any challenge when pure. The message here can be read as punk-fuelled with strong ideas of rebellion towards the socially deemed and softer norm for the representation of romance. YONAKA’s message breaks this façade and replaces it with heartfelt ideas of unbreaking allegiance instead.
Of course, it is one thing to have the ability to write such deep-rooted feelings into lyrics but it is another task altogether to convey such an attitude to your listeners in a believable manner. Yet although a steep task, Jarvis manages to do this perfectly with her powerful voice and incredible vocal range. She gives her all to every line sung via her impressive control of her voice’s amplitude levels, making it so believable that this person is risking everything to throw such incomparable amounts of care and reliance out there. Jarvis’ voice packs so much power that it sounds like pure rage coming out regarding the topics she fires out into the songs. Yet this rage is well juxtaposed against the selflessly devoted care that is being offered in each song, emulating a genuine representation of what it is like to be truly devoted to someone or something. Such themes are shown again in ‘Fired Up’ in which Jarvis sings “I’ll take the blame, I’ll take a bullet”, going on to make a Bonnie and Clyde reference. This mention in particular sits well with the overall mood of the album as the infamous U.S. criminals and the romanisation which is often carried alongside them also consists of the same attitude of “us against the world”.
Having discussed YONAKA’s success with the meanings which they manage to convey, the attention now has to be shifted to the sound produced itself. The album overall is a rock themed collection partly due to the presence of heavy drumming in all the tracks such as the constant background beat which allows the mood to be set throughout “Wake Up” by drummer Mason. This helps to preserve the rock vibe which makes up the key part of this album’s DNA. However, there is so much more to the debut album than just its core principle of rock. Guitarist Edwards and bassist Crosby expertly manage to create lighter pop tones in numerous songs which give a form of breather in amongst the rest of the intense and heady tunes. Big hits ‘Rockstar’ and ‘Lose Our Heads’ both feature these lighter guitar tones which compliment Jarvis’ excellent vocal range, all allowing for a refreshing pop coating over the ever present rock nucleus of the album.
In summary, YONAKA’s ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’ is the ultimate musical triumph. It positively fuses numerous genres together to emphatic effect with pop tones and punk ideas being added to a strong backing and base of pure rock music. Yet arguably even more impressively, the band manage to convey a strong theme throughout the entire album which reflects personal ambition, obsession and ultimate devotion to a cause which helps highlight the darker side of which love and care can resonate. This combination leaves YONAKA’s first offering as a fresh take on an old genre in both the sound in rock but also the meaning with its interesting interpretation of true love, resulting in a powerful and feeling-driven first album. All in all, a very talented fourpiece with so much more to give and as Jarvis herself sings in ‘Punch Bag’, “don’t underestimate me, it’ll be bad”. With such a delightfully unique debut, underestimating YONAKA is far from a possibility.
Want to give Yonaka a go yourself? Below are links to all their socials as well as their YouTube channel where you can view their music: