By Emma Furrier
The holidays are a time of year classified by gift giving, food prepping, worshipping whatever religion you are devout (or agnostic towards) and, of course, the blaring reprise of holiday music, carols, and jingles alike. The season is commercialized with that familiar sound of jingling bells and festive chimes, and even the frequent accompaniment of a hymnal choir. No matter your religious background or musical preferences, the holidays are a time filled with joy and togetherness… and what brings us together more than the power of music? As 2020 comes to a close (thank God) and the new year rears its head, let’s take a look back at the decades of holiday music that have captivated us, soundtracked our festive memories, or comforted us when the darkness of winter may have brought us more sadness than joy. Here are 10 songs from the past 50+ years that have us rocking around the Christmas tree. A combination of covers and holiday originals, let the music spark a joy within you, and hold no room for Scrooges during this magical time of year.
(1958) Chuck Berry - ‘Run Rudolph Run’
Perhaps one of the most energetic and notorious Christmas songs there is, this popular holiday track was recorded at the peak of Chuck Berry’s career and takes inspiration from his hit, ‘Little Queenie’ combined with the traditional ‘Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer’. Berry’s vivacious rockabilly guitar licks combined with bright piano keys create a classic tune full of swing and lively energy that is impossible to dislike. It has since been covered by many other greats, including Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hanson, Billy Idol, The Grateful Dead, and the Foo Fighters.
(1964) The Beach Boys - ‘Little Saint Nick’
The Beach Boys capitalized on their immense success at the time by releasing a Christmas album, which consisted of original Christmas songs written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love on the first side, and traditional favorites like ‘Frosty The Snowman’ and ‘White Christmas’ on the other side of the record. With unfortunate timing, it hit the shelves right after JFK was assassinated, but this song in particular still managed to become an instant hit. Some credit this towards its resemblance of their hit ‘Little Deuce Coupe’. This holiday record relishes in the breezy, West Coast ambiance that the early Beach Boys records were known for, and luscious harmonies that make you feel as warm and cozy as relaxing by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa.
(1971) John Lennon & Yoko Ono - ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’
Produced by Phil Spector in 1971, this classic holiday tune is equally an anti-Vietnam war song, as it is a Christmas one. John and Yoko were known for their political stance, and did not shy away from using their platforms to spread the message of peace and love, especially when the world needed to hear it most. The call to end the war was as urgent as ever, so why not amplify that message of peace with the true spirit of Christmas? The duo even took out billboards across America declaring “WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It).” What a clever marketing campaign, both for the country and for their record sales.
(1975) Bruce Springsteen - ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’
Nobody does it better than The Boss, and this rocking holiday tune is a prime example of that. While it was originally written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie in the early 1930s, many have gone on to cover this song, but little have done it in the way that Springsteen has here, full of lively guitar and feel good rock and roll. Accompanied by his full E Street Band, there is a sense of togetherness embodied in this song, along with the emblematic jingling of bells, clapping of hands and a foot stomping percussion to boot. Bruce first recorded the track live at a show in Long Island in December 1975, and then released the song as the B-Side to ‘My Hometown’ in 1985. It has since become a fan favourite that he occasionally will perform as a part of his shows no matter the season. It is a necessity to kick off the holiday season.
(1979) Paul McCartney - ‘Wonderful Christmastime’
This is McCartney’s first Christmas song, and his first solo song since Wings formed (and went on hiatus). It was recorded during the sessions for his solo album 'McCartney II' and was released in November 1979 following Wings' final album, which came out earlier that year. The popularity of this song was instant, and it launched the former Beatle’s new-wave approach to rock and roll with a synth-driven punch and an ear-warm of a chorus. While he was on a holly jolly high from the excitement of releasing a bold new track all on his own, McCartney was also high off of something else and spent ten days in a Japanese prison the week leading up to the track’s release. Hey, he was simply having a wonderful Christmas time!
(1984) Queen – ‘Thank God it's Christmas’
This holiday track was written by two of Queen’s founding members Brian May and Roger Taylor and while it was not originally released on any of the band’s studio albums, it appeared on Queen's ‘Greatest Hits III’, released in 1999, and as the B-side of the single ‘A Winter's Tale’ from the 1995 album ‘Made in Heaven’. The track is as captivating as any other Queen song, with the echo of Mercury’s stunning vocals coaxing the song into highs and lows of emotion, all backed with the archetypal chime of bells and orchestral accompaniment of a successful holiday hit. It holds a similarity to the beat of synths in McCartney’s Christmas track, while still holding its own in a way that was classically Mercury.
(1987) Ramones - ‘Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)’
All I want for Christmas is a good ol’ punk-rock head-banger complete with an opening riff that sounds reminiscent of the early British punk scene. While Joey Ramone may have been walking the (dirty) snowy streets of New York, his attempt at a holiday ditty did the Sex Pistols proud. This song was released later in the Ramones’ career, and was first released as a B-side to their single ‘I Wanna Live’. In true punk style, the song is a bit of a downer, but may reflect the harsh truth of what the holidays are for some. The first chorus on the song has Ramone looking for answers, nearly begging to feel the joyous spirit of the holiday season. “Where is Santa and his sleigh? Tell me why it is always this way? Where is Rudolph? Where is Blitzen baby?”. He can’t find holiday cheer and his partner can't find it in her heart stay by his side through the holiday season, despite his pleas of "Christmas ain't the time for breakin' each other's hearts”. Someone got coal in their stocking that year.
(1987) Pogues - ‘Fairytale of New York’
Pogues set the bar high with their release of this sarcastic, funny, in-your-face holiday hit. It topped the Irish charts and is regularly voted the greatest Christmas single ever in the U.K. It’s a throw ‘em back, loud and brash take on Christmas, in a very hasty, offensively Irish fashion. Shane McGowan eases listeners in with a slur of "It was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank," dreaming of "a better time when all our dreams come true." Soon, himself and Kirsty MacColl begin flinging insults at each other, ending with MacColl's paramount line: "Happy Christmas your arse; I pray God it's our last." Not too far off from the lousy “cheer” exhibited in the Ramones track, 1987 sure did seem to be a year for tongue-in-cheek, woe-is-me holiday tunes, which are highly memorable and beloved all in their own right.
(1992) Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - ‘Christmas All Over Again’
Featured on the charity compilation album ‘A Very Special Christmas 2’, this track was written and recorded by Tom Petty in ’92, and he donated all of its proceeds to the Special Olympics. Petty used this song to pay homage to the holiday season with a wistful, Phil Spector-influenced production. This song is completely endearing, full of Petty’s charm, church bells that practically sing, and rapid percussion that speeds up in a blissful momentum. He coolly sings his way through the line “Long distance relatives/ haven’t seen them in a long, long time/ Yeah, I kind of missed them” before adding with wit, "Yeah, I kinda missed 'em. I just don't want to kiss them." This holiday track is the epitome of a fun, cheerful Christmas tune that serves as an audial mood lifter.
(2007) The Killers - ‘Don’t Shoot Me Santa’
The Killers are known for frequently releasing yearly holiday tunes. Each and every song they have put out during the holiday season earns a spot on holiday party playlists far and wide, but this track in particular has certified itself as a fan favorite. In homage to their moniker, Flowers sings. “Oh Santa I've been killing just for fun/ Well the party's over kid/ because I got a bullet in my gun”. The song plays around with the character of Santa as a Jolly Saint Nick loaded with more than a sack of presents in tow. The chorus, “Don't Shoot me Santa Claus/ Well no one else around believes me” has the band erupting into an increasingly steady beat, in a fashion similar to a lot of their biggest hits, while Flower’s vocals entice the listener in an eager, emotional vibrato. If ‘This River is Wild’ was a darker, holiday hit, this would be it. In reality, there really isn’t anything Christmas sounding in this track, but that’s part of its charm and something that The Killers annually do best. Sometimes, it is nice to take a little break for the manufactured, jingle bell rocks that may quickly grow too sickeningly sweet. If gushy holiday carols are not your thing, look no further than The Killers' holiday discography.
By Emily Duff
Alternative rock band Plastic Barricades are back with their new album, 'Self-Theories', which follows on from their 2017 LP, 'Mechanics of Life'. Always asking the melancholic questions, Plastic Barricades claim to “heal your wounds” through this album, making it clear that raw emotion and energy has been incorporated into the creation of the 11 tracks that make it up. Split between London and Paris, Plastic Barricades have a unique sound of underground music from around Europe but also using heavy inspiration from classic bands from Radiohead to Nirvana to Oasis and others.
Written and recorded in a shed in North-West London, 'Self-Theories' manages to sound upbeat and exciting while discussing pessimistic ideas of loneliness. Targeting the day dreamers of the world, Plastic Barricades write music to comfort and connect, an aim that is successfully achieved through their opening track, 'Tunnel', that manages to incorporate funky drum rhythms and a toe-tapping chorus with desolate lyricism like, “you’re on your own for now, you really miss that sound”. The accompanying music video was filmed using a digital microscope which gave it a raw and hands-on style that amplified the personal touch that can be heard throughout the track. The idea of the microscope is meant to exaggerate the idea of ourselves being looked at in a close-up - Plastic Barricades aim to ask the question, “What would your anxieties look like under a microscope?”.
Following 'Tunnel', 'Optimist' similarly followed this DIY-style of a music video - using over 300 people filled in a fish tank. However, the track took a more upbeat approach, opening with major notes over a drum and guitar riff by Paul Love. While most of the tracks focus on the bad in the world, 'Optimist' takes an unsurprisingly optimistic view point that discusses the idea of the world being a place to use at our whim rather than to adhere to. This can be heard in the striking lyric, “There are many pathways to explore...For an optimist”, telling their listeners to look for the good in opportunities rather than focusing on our natural anxieties about new situations and experiences.
'Don’t Follow Me!' opens with a tense rumble before juxtaposing calmed guitar riffs begin the track. The vocals take centre stage with Dan Kert sticking to a calm but pessimistic tone, with lyrics like “I’m standing on the edge / I’ll pay the cost” being repeated in each chorus and embodying the melancholic ideas encapsulated in the whole album.
'Right to be Adored' then comes in with an upbeat drum riff - highlighting the album's flip-flop between the miserable and the exciting viewpoints we can take on life. I think this is something that many listeners can relate to, especially those looking to have their wounds “healed”.
Later in the album, 'One for the Road' strays away from the previous negative ideas and rather choses to focus on travel and self-discovery. One of my favourite tracks on the album, 'One for the Road' focuses on the freedom of exploring and its necessity in self-development and fulfilment. Rather than worrying about others, the track reasurrase a listener that, “They’ll never know that we ran away / They will be busy finding reasons to stay behind”. This perfectly summarises the guilt that many people can feel when they begin to move on with their lives or move in a different direction to those who they have found themselves surrounded by for years. This is something natural that I think most people of any age can appreciate - sometimes you need to do what's best for you. Even if it's scary, moving away from the comfort of what you know to follow new paths that interest you will always be the most important thing. A key moral I took from this track was to always put yourself first - a very important message.
Ending with their demo, 'Final Chance', Plastic Barricades ends their album in a calm and almost spiritual note, describing “holding hands”. Completely slowing the pace down, 'Final Chance' comes out at the other end of the self-discovery described throughout the album - making its meaning something individual to each listener.
With beautiful artwork by Elina Pasok showing a house turned on its side, it embodies the idea of questioning ourselves that 'Self-Theories' aims to do. Titled ‘Self-Theories’ based on the idea of human nature and stereotypes that define our thoughts, feelings and behaviour, Plastic Barricades do not aim to promote this but rather question its truthfulness - arguing rather that our actions define who we are. It doesn’t matter your morals or the things you say, if the way you live your life does not show this then the self-theories you have developed become meaningless.
If you would like to discover more about Plastic Barricades, the links to all their socials can be found below via the icons:
By Emma Furrier
At just eighteen years old, Grace Bland has already established herself as a rising star in the English indie pop scene. Her 2019 debut single ‘Pity Parties’ was warmly received, and her follow up single ‘Human’ went on to be named Record of the Week by BBC Introducing Radio Solent, and earned her a spot on three Spotify editorial playlists - 'New Pop UK’, 'Fresh Finds: Pop’ and ‘Easy’ which boasts a following of over 380,000 listeners. Her much anticipated third single, ‘She Kinda Looks Like Me’ has just been released on November 6th, pivoting her into a darker side of pop she had yet to explore.
Channeling sadcore and dream pop influences like Lana del Rey and Bea Miller, ‘She Kinda Looks Like Me’ finds Bland in a moody, atmospheric state filled with snappy synths and breezy reverb. The layering of her vocals in time with finger snapping leads up to the chorus, where the track falls into a catchy, earworm of a chorus. Bland’s vocals appear more finely tuned than in previous efforts, as she experiments with different notes and finds her groove in an R&B style cadence. The song’s tempo finds balance in between genres, establishing the darker, almost sultry mood of the song. The moody composition reflects the messaging behind the song’s storyline. Bland describes the song as “an exploration into jealousy using the fictional narrative of a disloyal partner” that, ironically, strikes quite a similar appearance to her.
The song’s lyrics evoke a sense of distrust and paranoia, while her rich vocals coerce her listeners into a dreamlike state of satiation, just as her partner has by placating her on their drive. While in theory, the chorus of the song “You must know that/ she kinda looks like me/she kinda looks like me” could be convoluted as desperation, don’t be fooled into thinking Bland is the powerless one here. The dominance in her vocals alone exudes strong emotion and impetus that sways her audience into her own narrative.
‘She Kinda Looks Like Me’ is a promising release that combines Bland’s indie-pop style with a darker, electro-pop ambiance to produce an enticing and atmospheric new track from this rising young artist. Appearances aside, Grace Bland has announced herself as the one and only, and she sure is a voice to be heard.
If you'd like to find out more about Grace Bland or keep up to date with her latest news and releases, the links to all her social medias are available below via the icons or her website here
By James Bentley
Early last month marked 25 years since Oasis released an album that would quickly become one of the most influential music successes in British history; ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory ?’. This was the follow up to the band’s 1994 debut album ‘Definitely Maybe’. Although this would be a tough success to follow, the mancunians did so... with ease. ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’ was recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales over the course of just 12 days. However, according to the band, their time at the farm is remembered more for the drugs, booze and football as well as the chaotic fist fights, cricket bats and smashed guitars that followed. Despite this, a masterpiece was at the forefront.
‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory ?’ certainly has a more polished and enriched sound to it and this is immediately evident from it’s opening track - ‘Hello’. Not only do the riffs of the electric guitars sound healthier, but the drums also seem to express a stronger and more vibrant composition. Furthermore, Liam’s vocals only seem to have progressed further in both power and confidence.
Following on from ‘Hello’ is ‘Roll With It’. Whilst still holding elements of that dirt and grittiness present throughout ‘Definitely Maybe’, it also embraces the more upbeat and positive ambience that is ‘(What’s the Story)’. ‘Roll With It’ also defined the well documented Britpop rivalry that the band shared with Blur. Between this and ‘Country House’ it was a battle of the bands for the number one spot that week. Spoiler alert ! It would be Blur that would go to number one. However, as it has been quoted so many times in the media over the last two decades ‘Blur may have won the battle, but Oasis won the war’.
The next two tracks on ‘Morning Glory ?’ are not only two of the most important and successful songs on the album, but the most important and successful of the bands career (as well as ‘Live Forever’). With Noel on acoustic, Bonehead on piano and the clarity of Liam’s vocals, ‘Wonderwall’ is the band’s first attempt at a soft rock ballad. With lyrics such as ‘Today is gonna be the day...’, this song holds a place in every Mancs heart. Furthermore, can anybody honestly say they’ve not been in the shower, at a wedding or just staggering home drunk, and not suddenly just felt the urge to belt out "I said maaybeeeee"!
Not only was ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ the first Oasis single to feature Noel solely on the vocals, but it was also the second Oasis single to reach number one in the UK - and with the power of that spine-tingling chorus, there’s no question as to why. It is also heavily influenced by the Beatles. From the very first second, the opening piano riffs replicate John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’. Noel has also stated that the lyrics ‘So I start a revolution from my bed / ‘Cause you said the brains I had went to my head’ were inspired from a cassette tape that he had picked up from the United States, containing memoirs from the late, great John Lennon. However, what draws us Mancunians to this song is that it wears its proverbial heart on its sleeve. After the tragic events of 2017, we will forever sing that song, with pride, with respect and most importantly with love.
‘Hey Now’ is possibly the most underrated track of the album. I’m not suggesting that it’s the best song on there. However, between Liam’s vocal delivery, and each band member performing to an equally high standard, I do feel that this track does not get the appraisal that it deserves. Perhaps the listener is still trying to catch their breath back from Sally, who knows!
‘Some Might Say’ was not only the first single to be released off the album but it was also the first Oasis song to reach number one in the UK. A crowd pleaser, a road trip cruiser, a stadium anthem and a back garden barbecue jam if I ever heard one. I also consider ‘Some Might Say’ to be more relevant than ever during these difficult and unprecedented times. As we enter a second lockdown, lyrics such as ‘Some might say that sunshine follows thunder’, ‘Some might say, we will find a brighter day’ convey a very positive and inspiring message. So for everybody reading this, look after yourselves and keep yourself safe.
‘Cast No Shadow’ is undoubtedly the most gentle track on the album. With the vocals shared between Noel and Liam and it’s Verve-like composition, this track provides a brief element of warmth and peace between the two brothers. It also offers a sense of melancholy as we know where things currently stand between the two today.
Now, every album has that one track that wasn’t released as a single, but could have been one anyway. On ‘(What’s the Story)’ it’s ‘She’s Electric’. Between Liam’s surprisingly impressive high pitch vocals, the upbeat melody and the simplicity of the lyrics; ‘She’s Electric’ makes for a song that everybody knows and wants to sing along to. The chorus also interpolates lyrics from a children's television programme in the 1980’s called ‘Me and You’.
‘Morning Glory’ is certainly the toughest track on the album. With overly amplified and gritty electric guitar riffs that closely resemble ‘Rock N Roll Star’, and lyrics such as ‘All your dreams are made / When you’re chained to the mirror of your razor blade’ (snorting Cocaine), this song doesn’t take any prisoners. That polished and enriched sound appears almost completely absent on this track. Nonetheless, the song sits perfectly comfortable on the album.
Last but not least is ‘Champagne Supernova’, 7 minutes and 28 seconds of pure blissful brilliance; it’s the curtain nobody wants to close. It is everything great about the album rolled into one track. It retains that positivity and enrichment, but with a few pinches of sadness sprinkled on top as it draws the album to a close. Furthermore, lyrics containing oxymorons such as ‘Slowly walking down the hall / Faster than a cannonball’ illustrate just how much of a humble genius Noel Gallagher can really be. Although bittersweet, it’s a beautiful conclusion to a masterpiece.
From ‘Hello’ to ‘Champagne Supernova’, ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory ?’ illustrates how these working class lads from Burnage had dipped their toes in the pool of fame. A life on the dole, going to Sifters and getting high in the garden, had been exchanged for worldwide tours, money, fame, women, parties and a shit load of Class A drugs - and they were loving it. It might not have received the appraisal it deserved upon its initial release, but the people loved it, and like Noel recently stated, this was an album for the people, and after 25 years - it still very much is.
If you'd like to reminisce with Oasis' classic album or keep up to date with the 25th anniversary merchandise, you can find links to the band's social medias below via the icons:
By Emily Duff
As we approach Halloween, I decided it was necessary to discuss the artist whose tracks make the perfect Halloween playlist. For me, no cheesy playlist is complete without Alice Cooper - whether you want an element of spookiness to bring October to life or the perfect track to accompany your road trip, his groovy rhythms and haunting lyricism is perfect. Alice Cooper is always my go-to and as it’s halloween I thought it best to focus on the Alice Cooper tracks that make or break a halloween party soundtrack.
In order of worst to best (although all four are great), I’ll have to start with 'I Love The Dead'. Firstly, what's striking about this Cooper track is its more chilled out vibes. While still being a head-bangger with his use of killer - pun intended - guitar, the majority of the track is slow and haunting rather than Cooper’s usual use of pushing horror in your face. With less of a focus on heavy guitar and drum, creepy lyrics like, “The bluing flesh for me to hold”, take centre stage and allow a listener to truly squirm at his disturbing imagery. However, the addition of piano makes this track groovy so don’t be too fearful of the gore.
Following on, 'Welcome To My Nightmare', the title track of his 1975 album of the same name, is another chilled out but typically eerie Cooper track. Using the backing band of Lou Reed, this track has a very ‘70s feel to it with funky bass riffs in the chorus that get your hips moving instantly. Starting similarly slow to 'I Love The Dead', super funky guitar melodies take over towards the end of the track after listening to Cooper whisper, “I think you’re gonna like it”, in your ear. Use of trumpets and saxophone and piano create a contrapuntal and intense sound that freaks out a listener in a different way to 'I Love The Dead' as the sound effects of unidentifiable but presumably monster noises take focus over freaky lyrics.
Then the classic, 'Poison'. Released on his album 'Trash' in 1989, this single was Cooper’s first top ten single since 1977 and for a very good reason. Opening with a synthy guitar, the track then immediately breaks into the classic Cooper rock and roll riffs we’re used to hearing. With a sneaky silent moment beforehand the chorus is given an intensity before the famous, “I wanna taste you but your lips are venomous poison”.
My personal Halloween favourite, 'Feed My Frankenstein', embodies the cheesy spookiness we all need. Opening with a dialogue between Cooper and his Frankenstein monster, the track then goes into detail to make it as outlandish as possible. I don’t think this track needs much explaining as it’s a halloween classic but make sure to add it to your party playlists immediately.
One of the most successful and influential ‘70s rock-horror artists, to me, Alice Cooper embodies Halloween. With relatable singles like 'I’m Eighteen' and his spooky tracks discussed in this article, Alice Cooper has well deservingly managed to remain relevant and interesting for decades. As part of your spooky movie marathon I would definitely recommend 'Dark Shadows'. A cheesy Tim Burton plot but with the classic Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter cast. Fun fact: Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper also went on to form Hollywood Vampires in 2015.
If you'd like to find out more about what Alice Cooper is up to nowadays, the links to all his socials are below via the icons:
By Edward Burnett
As music listeners we have our preferences when it comes to genres. We are more likely to listen to music types which suit us and at Rock N Roll Reports, we are no different. It is no secret that we predominantly specialise in indie rock acts whether they be soft rock, alt rock or indie pop among others. Regardless of their individual names and labels, they are all part of the wider genre we aim to cover. However, as music lovers ourselves, we are always open to new sounds and every so often an artist of another genre pricks our collective ears. In the case of this month’s second Amplified Analysis, a highly talented solo artist did just that with her newly released single and so it is time to move to the focus of this article. We NEED to talk about Hana Canhasi.
Hana Canhasi is not your usual start up musical artist. She doesn’t have happy beginnings or reasons that led her to creating her songs. Her songs don’t follow the usual topics that the main crowd of upcoming artists rely on. A singer-songwriter in her twenties, Canhasi moved to the United States in 1999 when her family fled from war in their home country of Kosovo. Having spoken to her for the previous month, she has told me that from a young age she has always loved performing, partaking in talent shows and of course, playing the guitar. Prior to this year, Hana had not recorded her vocals on a microphone yet she felt ready to do so with the pandemic occurring and what a decision that was. This now brings us to the present and more importantly, her fresh new track, ‘Drama’.
Despite already releasing her debut single ‘Deserve’ this year, our focus very much lies on her follow up song. ‘Drama’, as Hana has told me, is written about a difficult time in her life when some close friends turned their backs on her showing a lack of character. Hana said it was a “situation that was hard to deal with” but one that led to her going professional with her music and ultimately the release of ‘Drama’, in effect going full circle. This anecdote is key to understanding the type of person Canhasi is. Despite hardships like having to flee her home country at a young age due to conflict and also being betrayed by those apparently closest, she still prevails and powers forward, all the more stronger for it. This isn’t a shy new singer who sticks to the safe basics and writes love songs. Canhasi instead channels this pain, focusing on her empowerment from these negative experiences. For an up and coming artist this is an extremely bold and experimental path to take but it is most certainly a welcomed one.
Having discussed the meanings and theme of ‘Drama’, it is now pivotal to analyse the actual sound structure of the new single also. As mentioned, the song can be described as being of the RnB genre with heavy themes of this which run throughout. The song reflects Canhasi’s mood as it provides the listener with a chilled and calming beat yet with a bold confidence in Chanhasi’s voice creating a delightful audio juxtaposition. Calm yet collective would be fitting words to describe the singe as there is a true atmosphere to ‘Drama’ which makes the listener feel transported to Canhasi’s domain for the three minute runtime. The tune lulls you to a state of tranquility so that you are able to give all of your attention to canvas’s voice and the poignant lyrics which carry such meaning. Alongside the success of the music is of course the talent that is Hana’s voice. Her vocal style is similar the of Ariana Grande’s, possessing an impressively powerful vocal range to match as well. Each word seems to roll off her tongue with ease matching the smooth flowing tune expertly. The way Canhasi lingers on a note, almost wobbling the final words of a line, only acts to amplify the mood she is aiming (and succeeding) to create as the control she has over her voice deeply reflects the control she has over the situation she is singing about.
Overall, a single of another genre has to be engaging and a true standout to gain the attention of others, especially so much so to feel moved to write an analysed review of said single. Hana Canhasi’s music is exactly that. ‘Drama’ embodies a mesmerically confident vibe which demonstrates to the listener exactly who is in control and holding the proverbial cards. This is unmistakably fitting as Canhasi’s strength of character is monumental having managed to come through multiple hardships in her life and still follow her musical dreams, producing and releasing high quality songs regardless. Hana’s welcoming warmness and admirable strength is only exceeded by her stunning talent thus highlighting her to be a true future star on the rise.
If you'd like to keep up to date with Hana's news and future releases or listen to 'Drama' on YouTube, you can find links to all of her socials via the icons below:
By Emma Furrier
The power of music holds no boundaries, and perhaps no one knows that better than English singer songwriter, Graham Smith. After years of live performances, now at age 67, the Sussex native has released his first single, 'Safe in my Hands'. In this debut track, Smith draws from his influence of American West Coast sound, and taps into his own acquired wisdom after traveling the world and observing the human condition. Inspired by the harmonious vocals of American legends such as Don Henley, Jackson Browne, and Graham Nash, 'Safe in my Hands' presents its sound in a beautifully constructed, folk-rock inspired ballad.
The track begins with the haunting echo of piano, and then picks up its tempo in a collective melody that kicks off subtle drums and acoustic guitar with a breezy effervescence. His voice holds a youthful quality that catches you by surprise, and contrasts his maturity and insight. Multiplied vocals join together in a blissful harmony, reminiscent of Beach Boys-style congruence, which quickly envelops you into a realm of comfort and unity. There is a sense of reassurance to it all; a hopeful cadence that affirms his musicality after years utilizing song to win over the woman he loved, and scouring London to locate every Bob Dylan and Beatles songbook and record possible. Smith took notes along the way, which resulted in this single emitting refrains of nostalgia and the spirit of a life well lived. It holds the qualities of something familiar, yet brand new and hopeful, all in a blissful union.
Smith’s lyrics reflect universal human emotion and desire, especially in times of need. When everything in the world is uncertain, we all need something to cling to, and for many, that is the power of music. He grants us 4 minutes of pure consolation, where we are swathed in the warmth of his voice and the reassurance of his words. “You’re safe in my hands/Love is a lifeline/Part of the plan/It’s part of the grand design”. While the world may presently leave us cast in uncertainty, it is the resilience of the human spirit and the guidance of love that will keep us united.
Graham Smith exemplifies the notion that the best things take time, and that a slow burn is better than a hasty start. After two years of delicately crafting his debut record with producer Matthew Parisi, he will be releasing new tracks every few weeks via Red Chimp Records. If this track is anything to go by, I look forward to relishing in the ease of his future efforts.
If you would like to find out more about Graham and Studio Chimp, you can find links to their social medias via the icons as well as the Youtube link to 'Safe In My Hands' below:
By Emma Furrier
Declan McKenna’s highly anticipated sophomore album, 'Zeros', launches the indie rocker into the stratosphere of stardom where modern commentary meets conceptualized narration, all wrapped up nicely in a glam-rock packaging. The album boldly takes heavy topics riddled with controversy and conspiracy, such as capitalism and climate change, and presents them in a way that engages listeners through an intergalactic unfolding in an extensive concept album. With a Ziggy Stardust momentum, it forecasts the world’s state of affairs through a science fiction lens and plenty of political critique. In true Declan McKenna fashion, he has maintained his socially conscious approach to lyricism, while drastically elevating his musical direction and instrumentation. Succeeding his praised 2017 debut album, 'What Do You Think About the Car?', McKenna’s follow-up has proven him to be a shining light in a world plagued with autotuned, thoughtless hits. McKenna follows the route of Brit-rock greats, while simultaneously creating a path all his own while he takes us along for an atmospheric ride on 'Zeros'.
The album’s opening track, 'You Better Believe!!!' kicks off the record with a prominent energy and an in-your-face sense of urgency. We find our narrator on a rocket ship leaving behind life on Earth and all of humanity, headed for a tumultuous final destination of uncertainty and self-exploration. Could this perhaps be a societal metaphor? The structure of this opening track serves a purpose, as it introduces us to the conceptualized world McKenna has created, and launches us into this journey alongside "astronauts" whom parallel the listener’s own human experience. McKenna’s vocals on this track escalate to a peak where we find him screaming, “We’re going to get ourselves killed!” while erupting into a crescendo of sound, musically simulating a rocket taking off. He then sings, “What do you think about the rocket I built?” providing a tongue-in-cheek reference to the title of his preceding album, and a jab at our self-indulgent, fast-paced society. This track is essential, as it prepares us for the album, and sends us along for the journey ahead. It urges us to buckle up, as the album pleads us to save ourselves before it is too late.
McKenna references the character of Daniel multiple times throughout the album, although there is still a sense of ambiguity in the characters and tale he has created, leaving room for interpretation. We first meet Daniel on the second track, 'Be An Astronaut', which finds him at the beginning of his excursion into space, telling him “you’ll do it or die trying”, which (spoiler alert) we later find concludes the album. On this track, McKenna creates a big production while recalling memories of youth, almost as if his life is flashing before his eyes while he ascends into the unknown. In an interview with Apple Music, McKenna noted 'The Age of Adz' by Sufjan Stevens inspired him in terms of production and atmospheric feeling on this cut in particular. It presents the notion that life is fleeting, so you should act before it is too late.
'Zeros' was released at the perfect time, as we now find ourselves struggling to keep afloat in a world on fire. Frequently throughout the album, we are urged as listeners to reflect critically on the systems in which oppress us, and those in which we have accepted while turning a blind eye. In homage to Orwell’s '1984', the dystopian universe that McKenna has created address the freedoms willingly omitted in a world of complete surveillance presented by technological advances. In our modern age of hyper-connectivity and self-inflicted Big Brother, tracks like 'Beautiful Faces' and 'Daniel You’re Still a Child' provide a poignant criticism on social media anxieties, the pressures of youth, and how technologies provide an immersive and overbearing experience that propagate inequality. Each track carries the album on a trajectory of human experience, fortified by socially charged lyrics such as “You're part of something bigger than the laws of nature/Mrs. Thatcher/Your cruel heart navigates the world we live in” ('Rapture').
By the middle of the album, Daniel’s story reveals that he has lost himself in the world; therefore, he has left it altogether. As the album draws to a close, listeners are forced to equate Daniel and the astronauts to our own condition, leaving us with one final question: What do we do now that we have found ourselves here? McKenna answers this with his signature obscurity, allowing us to ponder over the end of the world on the tracks 'Twice Your Size', 'Rapture', and 'Sagittarius A*' as well as our own consciousness and free will on the ending track 'Eventually, Darling', alluding to the realization of our own mortality.
Is McKenna taking us on a 2020 Space Oddity journey to leave Earth behind and begin a better life elsewhere, or is it a quest to save humanity? We’ll leave that up to you, but regardless of conceptual intention, the album collectively illustrates McKenna’s musical aspirations, spurred by our rapidly changing world. While thematically this has been done before, McKenna is not in the business of copying anyone or anything. His sound is uniquely his own, and his approach is incredibly relevant to our modernity. Reminiscent to the likes of those who excelled before his time, nodding towards David Bowie, Bob Dylan, and The Beatles, 'Zeros' gravitates in the realm of catchy pop melodies, interlaced with glam rock ideations and treatments. The album excels in reflecting our modern world, while allowing it to dream of something bigger, and what could be bigger than outer space?
If you'd like to find out more about Declan McKenna or his new album 'Zeros', links to all his social channels are below via the icons:
By Demi Palmer
Lianne Charlotte Barnes, more commonly referred to as Lianne La Havas, is an indie singer born in London. “La Havas” was taken from her father’s full Greek name. The feelings her music elicits don’t quite fit into a single or definitive genre- rather she’s created space for her own sound. Much of her original fame is attributed to being the backup singer for Paloma Faith, but as she started to embrace her unique music tastes, she became well regarded by a wide variety of artists such as Bon Iver, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Coldplay and her cultural music mentor - Prince. Her studio album, Is your Love Big Enough, won iTune’s best album of the year in 2012 and was nominated for the Mercury Prize. Her album, Blood, followed in 2015, which was a lyrically decorated, colorful and lush collection of emotions and melodies. Most recently, she released her third album, 'Lianne La Havas', which is a musical expression of her metamorphosis towards self-love and self-acceptance. The title references her name and she explains that in being at the center of all the songs, she’s onto something very true to who she is. The album lies at the corner of her most true identity, between her Jamacian and Greek heritage and is an open invitation for listeners to figure themselves out, just as she is executing for herself.
The album opens beautifully with her song 'Bittersweet', already a title that represents the duality that exists within herself and the complicated situations that she’s orchestrated. She sings the story of a dead-end relationship with a partner that she knows she must end, but feels trapped in doing so. Quite blatantly she sings, “this shit is going nowhere.” In the song, she avoids that partner in their attempt to make it work as an effigy of self-avoidance. She’s realizing the need to effectively communicate with herself in order to communicate with others, such as this partner. She also expresses a need for distance; not only must she distance herself from her partner, but also old habits. In a rap genius interview, Lianne admits that this song is about reconnecting with oneself and realizing that certain things may need to change in order to take the steps one wishes to take. But more importantly than acknowledging unfulfilling situations, is mustering strength and courage to will oneself out of them. Towards the end of the song, Lianne encourages herself by repeating the phrase, “What are you waiting for” in hopes of taking the next step past acknowledging a bad situation. The chorus chants, “bittersweet summer rain, I’m born again,” hence a turning point that encapsulates an invigorating restart in her life. This song fully expresses Lianne’s ability to acknowledge what’s sweet in a bitter situation and that both words will always co-exist; one cannot happen without the other.
Her album continues with the single, 'Read my Mind' which covers a sweet, whimsical encounter of meeting a love interest before the track for 'Can’t Fight' begins. 'Can’t Fight' exhibits the theme of strength, and the absence of it; it fully accepts where one is in their journey. The song is layered behind an upbeat and playful tune, in an attempt to make a frustrating feeling, something to relate to and celebrate. In this song, Lianne is aware that something is not good for her and in people’s attempt to pull her back from it, she instead dives fully into it. Hence, she expresses, “you’re pulling me back and now I’m going under.” Lianne doesn’t shame herself, or try to talk herself out of it. Insteads, she is self-aware of her needs and provides herself the room to experience the highs and the burns. She sings, “everything's right until it's wrong, but something about you feels like home...you know that you got me gone.” Since the beginning of time, people have purposely made decisions that they knew from the beginning were wrong, whether it was Adam and Eve knowingly eating the forbidden fruit or Brutus knowingly killing his close friend, Caesar. In this song, Lianne understands that she can’t fight her needs, and instead, dives fully into it, which comes with a new set of learnings on its own.
'Paper Thin' immediately follows 'Can’t Fight' as if it were the natural consequence of her decision to knowingly enter a bad situation. The song is structured as a self-written letter and reminder to be gentle with herself and to handle herself with grace- the epitome of self-love. 'Paper Thin' is a figurine for the condition of her heart and ego. She fully understands her pain and that it is valid, and reminds herself that God has not left her. This further supports another theme that her spiritual forces are always working for her and never against her and that she must be patient in her healing journey. Lianne opens up about her feelings of self-doubt and lack of confidence, an appropriate topic for an album that is centered around her truest feelings and vulnerability. While parts of herself have permanently changed, as what usually happens during self-transformative growth, she seeks to better understand different ways to access her new self, as evident in her lyrics, “give me the other key, your heart’s wide open.” However, her vulnerability in airing her pain will eventually lead to freedom, as she expresses in the song. She reassures herself with loving phrases such as, “I know you’re made of better stuff” and “I just want to love you” clearly referring to herself in this letter of self-love.
'Weird Fishes' is situated in the middle of the album after the interlude; it is a turning point in not only her reflection, but also musically. While the beat opens with drums and symbols similarly to other songs, she rearranges the rhythms to resemble rock or alternative genres and eventually softens the intro with a simple piano melody. Her turning point is symbolic because it occurs musically and lyrically. She sings about being at the bottom of the sea, broken and picked over and apart by worms. However, Lianne has demonstrated earlier in the album, her understanding of transformation and that to emerge as new, one must shed what is old. Therefore, at the bottom of the sea, Lianne leaves behind her carcass. With her phrase, “turn me onton phantom,” it’s evident that her old self has expired and a new spirit has taken shape to escape the dark, cold place where she previously existed. Her metamorphosis transcends delicacy, just as the beat in the song transforms into something more subtle when compared to the intro. Lianne’s beautiful recount of being at rock bottom and rising as someone stronger, is on brand with the many themes of transformation, self-love and acceptance within the rest of the album.
Lianne’s album, cunningly named as herself, is really a journey within. It’s written as a recount of what it feels like to be Lianne La Havas, while also encouraging others to define an album for their own lives. Musically, the album is crafted with raw instrumentals and paired with tender vocals, imperceptibly expressing the authenticity and vulnerability of her own journey. It’s a beautiful take on simple art forms and what it means to strip something down to its core, bereft of flashy embellishments. Throughout this entire album, I was able to relate to every song, and while her journey is unique, the themes are present in everyone’s life. She tugs at the battle of the brain and heart and the compromises that follow the manner in whichever way the scale tips. The ode to herself is one which has made me question, what are the songs in my own personal life, and what are the stories that have defined me the most? Perhaps the importance does not lie within the stories itself, rather the connection of the dots between them, and the creation of a unique path towards-self love.
If you'd like to keep up to date with Lianne La Havas' news and latest releases, you can find her social links below:
By Emily Duff
German up-and-comers Silent Attic have taken motivation from the seemingly devastating coronavirus situation through putting their free time to good use by pouring themselves into their music.
Using the time to produce their EP, Escape, Silent Attic have worked hard to develop a new sound they are proud to share with the world. As a follow on from their debut album, Late Night Talks, Escape will be a smaller-scale take on their new music allowing for a more clear representation of who the band are.
An emotional single for the band, Silent Attic have taken on the role of presenting their unmistakable sound that will be heard throughout the upcoming EP. Opening with a funky but melancholy guitar riff from Leon Paul Paulsen before being layered with intensifying bass by Benjamin Bajramovic and complimentary drum beats from Maik Klink,Take My Time immediately makes a listener's head bop along.
Inspired by indie-rock artists from Arctic Monkeys to The Smiths to Catfish and the Bottlemen, Silent Attic are an alternative band utilising lead singer, Eros Atomus’s, gritty voice along with the use of well-written catchy instrumental riffs. With elements of classic rock, punk and pop, Silent Attic are proving themselves to be confident with their abilities.
Take My Time tells the story of something destined to end too soon. In this case, using the idea of a relationship to explain how the two sides of the ended couple perceive their co-existence and the downfall of that co-existence. While this thought may seem a pessimistic idea, Take My Time allows for the focus of growth in the lyrics. Although sad and unwanted things like the ending of a relationship cannot be controlled, as individuals we can decide what we do with the situations we are placed in. Rather than dwelling on past mistakes and becoming fearful of new connections, we can choose to grow and learn from the experience in order to perfect ourselves and the next person we connect with - an important message for listeners of all ages and backgrounds.
Due to be released October 2nd, I am already excited for the world to hear their new EP, Escape. With Take My Time teasing the hard work they’ve done during their spare time, Silent Attic are definitely ready to do big things in the future.
If you would like to listen to 'Take My Time' and keep up to date with Silent Attic's news and upcoming releases, you can find links to their socials down below: