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:
By Edward Burnett
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are a San Francisco indie-rock band comprising of Peter Hayes (vocals, guitar), Robert Levon Been (vocals, bass) and Leah Shapiro (drums) who replaced original drummer Nick Jago in 2008. Over 19 years ago, the band released their debut album 'B.R.M.C.' which was a tasteful mix of atmospheric drumbeats and powerful, haunting lyrics. This very album is this article's main focus as its importance of altering a whole genre and subsequently the global music scene too, is very much understated.
When Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (named after Marlon Brando's own motorcycle gang in the 1953 film 'The Wild One') surged onto the scene in 2001, the concept of indie-rock wasn't as familiar a term as it is today. In the band's home country of the United States, the recently passed decade of the 1990s was dominated by grunge rock. Bands such as Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and most famously Nirvana were all major household names worldwide and had managed to provide a popular alternative to the heavy presence of pop music. In England during the same time period Britpop commanded the charts with bands including Oasis, Blur and Pulp all gaining mass support and glowing reviews for their reintroduction of a form of rock and roll back to the main stage. However true indie-rock as we know it was absent from this and did not have a large following. Enter Peter Hayes and co.
The band's debut album features 11 well-crafted songs which encompass topics of regret, realisation and redemption (how's that for alteration). The album starts off with a dark mood and themes regarding the breakdown of love with lyrics such as "never thought that I'd rather die than try to keep her by my side" from the opener, 'Love Burns'. This lyric in particular highlights how relations can turn sour and in turn documents that shift in viewpoints of someone close to you in a betrayal of reputations. This topic of realisation combined with the heavy drum beat in the back and the reversing guitars present allows for a sense of rebirth in the song's story which reflects the album as a whole. 'B.R.M.C.' can be seen as encapsulating a rebellious attitude within music which emits a overall feeling of recovery after having lost a person you believed to be someone else. The recovery is complete by the final song, aptly titled 'Salvation'. Although this final tune offers little in the way of lyrics to confirm this personal reflection and turnaround, its greatest message is instead conveyed in the melody itself. The music is upbeat yet without compromising on the band's universal style at all, keeping the iconic reverting guitars and atmospheric drumming pattern. Yet the song manages to sound both positive and climatic allowing Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's debut tale to be told with a convincing and emotional ending that our character from the songs has truly found personal recovery and moved on. This is a feature is something that many albums fall short of due to poor track structure and thus suffer from it.
So why is 2001's 'B.R.M.C.' so important then? Not only was its style and actual theme of recovery quite unique at the turn of the millennium but it also gave birth to the indie-rock band of the 21st century featuring the importance of complex drum beats (only previously seen in this style in the hip-hop tracks of the 1990s), powerful electric guitars taking the to the forefront of the sound and of course, leather jackets. Many have been inspired to follow suit after 'B.R.M.C.' with Sheffield's Arctic Monkeys most notably delving deep into this style during their critically acclaimed 'AM' era in 2013. Also supporting the hair gel, leather jackets and kickass attitude, Alex Turner's band succeeded in giving off a recognisable vibe to those familiar with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The connections don't stop there though with even albums title, 'AM', is also an acronym of the band's name, similarly to 'B.R.M.C.' with the two bands also performing together at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on August 7th 2014. Inspiration from 'B.R.M.C.' in other indie-rock bands since is just as evident with California's The Neighbourhood with 'Wiped Out!' (2015) and Llandudno's Catfish and the Bottlemen's 'The Balcony" (2014) both encompassing Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's initial style.
All in all, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club managed to bring the slick and stylish edition of indie-rock to the musical forefront, inspiring an ultra-cool approach which has continued throughout this century on both side's of the Atlantic. Due credit also has to be paid to The Strokes of course as they too helped facilitate this adaption of rock for the 21st century generation with their own brand of garage rock. Yet with this said, many have already noted The Strokes' contributions whereas as this article shows, the lesser known San Francisco outfit played their role to as much of an influential standard, if not more so. Their showstopper debut release proved that both musical style and substance could be achieved all while rocking a leather jacket and preaching important life lessons which are as well constructed as they are realistic. The third track of the album is entitled 'Whatever Happened To My Rock 'N' Roll' and with this now classic debut, the band have not only effectively provided a response to the question but ensured that the question would never be relevant again.
If you would like to find out what the band are up to nowadays or listen to their music since, links to all their socials can be found below:
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:
By Botond Pinter
The intrinsic power of art can be wielded for a limitless set of purposes; fostering affection for the villain is but one of its many insidious possibilities. Siding with the antagonist is something that we’ve grown accustomed to in modern cinema, literature and music. Often, we become empathetic of a villain and, sometimes without even realising it, we permit ourselves to root for them.
Abel Tesfaye, better known as ‘The Weeknd’, is arguably the most successful self-proclaimed villain in contemporary pop-culture. Since 2009, Abel has zeroed in on portraying a dark, dysfunctional and nihilistic character. His music has always told fans of his nonchalant approach to life where absurdism is embraced in its full pandemonium. This form of noir-pop saturated with sex, drugs and empty romance produced the perfect villain whose enchanting voice captivated us. There was just one problem: the villain was too perfect. He was evil in every respect and was entirely unapologetic. Whilst many fell in love with the character, whether through a sense of dark fantasy or simply seeing 'The Beauty Behind the Madness' (as his 2015 album was entitled), his character was flawed in being one-dimensional - often singing of the same shameless lifestyle.
In Abel’s previous attempts to give his character some more depth, or a raison d’etre, we simply received a melancholic soliloquy which did little to develop our bond with the villain. In his recently released fourth studio album, 'After Hours', we finally encounter a new dimension of Abel’s devious villain. He submerges the listener in chilling anecdotal sketches that reveal emotions and ideas he had never explored before. Abel promised us a “brain-melting psychotic chapter” and that’s exactly what his new album delivers. It’s filled with ostensible self-contradiction, but under the surface displays almost unblemished harmony as his story becomes infused with self-loathing and a defective will to become a better man. In other words, this is a record about change. Those same cold lonely lines from the Trilogy era appear throughout 'After Hours' in their reversed form. The themes of change and reversal are most apparent in the fifth song on the album; 'Snowchild'. Abel guides the listener via anecdotes of his ambitious and tormented youth, portraying his lust for fame and fortune whilst delving into a dark underworld of drugs and relentless promiscuity. His motivations are the same as those he described in his 2011 song The Morning, in which he determines the pinnacle of success as the California dream. Snowchild, however, gives us a surprising twist. The lyric “Cali was the mission” reveals his change in attitude, and the next song on the album, Escape from L.A., appropriately captures the newly held sentiment. Abel believed that he would become fulfilled through money, drugs and sex, yet once he had achieved everything he previously desired, he feels emptier than ever. Instead, what he truly seeks for is a partner to settle down with and “share babies” – this is his vision of happiness. The optimism is short lived. Abel believes he had already found ‘the one’, but had hurt her in a failed relationship as a result of his inability to stay loyal and convey the love that he claimed to have for her (there is little doubt that Abel is referring to his relationship with Victoria’s Secret Angel Bella Hadid, whose recorded laugh is audible at 1:51 of Snowchild). He begs for a second chance. Sadly, our villain’s voice is more remorseful and apologetic than hopeful. His near certainty in defeat is what retains the dark, seemingly never-ending storm within him. When there remains nothing to hope for, Abel is quick to return to the ways of his earlier self despite a desire to become a better man: “I’m back to my ways cause I’m heartless”. This dark storyline is complete with masterful production by the likes of Illangelo, Kevin Parker, Ricky Reed and DaHealaeach adding a unique style. The final track on the album, 'Until I Bleed Out', is arguably the greatest example of the musical genius involved. The euphoric tapestry of sounds brings the listener to a climax of pleasurable pain as the album draws to abrupt end.
All in all, Abel gives us an irresistible work of art. It would be wrong to neglect mentioning the commercial success that After Hours has already enjoyed. The singles 'Blinding Lights' and 'Heartless' demonstrate the collision of Abel’s enigmatic R&B style and commerciality. Abel’s creativity in his music videos as well as the additional cinematic clips are just another element to love about this project. Nevertheless, this article has not so much focused on the numbers and commercial success behind the operation, but instead on the deeper meaning within the music. Abel’s villain is more breath-taking than ever. Our indulgence in his dystopian world may have been solely for imaginary excitement and escapism, but now that the façade of perfect evil has fractured, his villain has become one of flesh and blood. And yet, despite admissions of guilt over and over again, we love him more than ever. The Weeknd’s ability to manipulate us so through music is perhaps why he should be considered one of the greats of all time. Undoubtedly, Abel has a long career ahead and we await his villain’s next moves with bated breath.
By Edward Burnett
When I saw Noel Gallagher live last summer, something hadn’t quite sat right with me. Yes, the talent was there. Yes, the Oasis classics were being played. Yet, I found myself thinking that something was missing. Could what I had just witnessed be described truly as rock ‘n roll? The next natural step was to go to a Liam Gallagher concert and see if I found what was missing. A year later I was able to attend Liam’s gig at Newcastle’s Utilita Arena this past Sunday.
Anticipation was high among the Pretty Green wearing, Stone Island clad crowd as the lights dimmed, summoning what everyone had been waiting for, NME’s very own ‘Godlike Genius’, Liam Gallagher. Walking out to ‘F**kin in the Bushes’ in his trademark, carefree strut, Gallagher went straight into Definitely Maybe’s hit, ‘Rock n Roll Star’, to open the night. He couldn’t have picked a more aptly titled song to kick off the gig with as the performance that followed was one of the highest calibre in the rock and roll genre.
The setlist consisted of a perfect mix between his solo projects and the legendary Oasis anthems. Following the opening song, he went on to play ‘Halo’, ‘Shockwave’ and ‘Wall of Glass’ before mellowing on ‘Paper Crown’. It was refreshing to be shown that Liam is capable of both writing and performing well-produced solo songs which failed to look out of place in amongst the backdrop of such classic Oasis tunes. Shockwave and Wall of Glass’ galvanised an already bouncing crowd, adding a new level to the energy being displayed, with the verses as well as the choruses being belted out from all corners of the arena. Again, highly impressive considering both are only recent solo songs that are now in setlist royalty and rightly so judging by the effects produced. If truth be told, Paper Crown’s inclusion with its far slower pace was predominantly present for the crowd to catch a breather and regain their voices after a whirlwind first twenty minutes. To captivate an audience with songs that were released less than two months ago, especially when many will have attended for Oasis-led reasons, is not only an amazing feat but a testament to the rock and roll days of past.
Moreover, Liam’s handling of the Oasis hits definitely (not even maybe) did not disappoint either. ‘Morning Glory’s’ drum beat rattled the stadium, with the ground shaking throughout. ‘Stand by Me’ with Bonehead’s introduction allowed for the level of excitement to be raised off the scale for a crowd that hadn’t stopped singing all night. Then with ‘Wonderwall’ to finish the set was a perfect ending to summarise the vibe of the gig, as the words were sung so loudly by the Fred Perry wearing faithful that it was even hard to hear Gallagher himself. Ballads such as these with their effects on crowds show just how timeless and influential Liam Gallagher is. No matter how young or old, these are songs that can be enjoyed, showed by Gallagher’s own son Gene coming on to play drums for ‘The River’. Finally, as if the crowd were not already rocked out, Gallagher took to the stage for an encore comprising of massive Oasis hits with ‘Acquiesce’, ‘Supersonic’ and ‘Champagne Supernova’ all being played along with Gallagher cheekily devoting ‘Roll with It’ to ex-Newcastle United striker Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne. Then he eventually ended with a lively rendition of ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’. That tongue in cheek humour was shown throughout by the former Oasis frontman, from talking of Newcastle United’s Longstaff footballing brothers to ridiculing the technical team after two false starts with ‘Be Still’.
So, to answer my initial query of what was missing from Noel’s set last summer, it’s the swagger, the attitude and boldness of a true frontman. Someone who captivates the audience and owns the venue. Liam, through his humour, brashness and strut, emulated this image perfectly for the Newcastle faithful. Yes, Noel wrote many of those Oasis songs but when he performs them live without Liam, it’s a different atmosphere: it’s just not Oasis, it’s just not rock and roll. Whether Oasis will ever reform or not in the future is a whole other issue for another day, but Liam has certainly proved many of his doubters wrong about how successful a solo venture could be. While he keeps on producing performances like that, rock and roll lives on. True rock that leaves the listener feeling electric, thrilled or maybe even just a little supersonic. Why him? Why not.