Sunday, 29 January 2012

Yr Friends Have Been Lying To You

Johnny Foreigner have always had a talent for soft, delicate ballads of heartbreak and this EP from lead singer Alexei Berrow feels almost like a collection of their finest, quiet tracks. It wraps you up in gentle guitar melodies and Berrows’ trademark; quotable, repeated choruses will swirl around your head long after you stop listening.

His talent for narrating a story in an engaging but deeply personal way is concentrated on this short release, thanks in part to the beautifully sparse arrangement. Over a sea-shanty like rocking guitar he murmurs, “I think he’d be good for you, I think you’d be good for each other “. One of the best things about Johnny Foreigner is their ability to be widely relatable to - without becoming clich├ęd and while I’m being careful to try and view this out of the context of Johnny Foreigner, this still comes across
There’s something addictive and affecting in the simple guitar melodies and Berrows’ despondent tone, perhaps why this EP feels like it’s for escaping in to on a lonely journey on a misty evening. Maybe even thinking about how (as the first song is titled) ‘the walk home was not as dramatic as you’d hoped for’. Again, their brilliant descriptions of tiny scences of teenage love, heartbreak and day-to-day life are partly what make Johnny Foreigner such a great band and this EP just shows what a talented song-writer Berrow is. Well worth £3.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Dear Reader - 'Idealistic Animals'

If you take a look at the title of Dear Reader’s second album Idealistic Animals and at the tracklisting you’d quite easily come to the conclusion that this album is heavily themed. Each song is named after an animal, with a sub-title in brackets. For example the first song is called FOX (Take Your Chances). This caught my attention immediately and had me anticipating my first listen a little more than I’d expected. I was a little concerned that it may become a metaphor heavy, difficult and unrewarding listen, however these clear themes aren’t at any point overpowering; it’d be fairer to say that it just gives you two ways to look at each song, which is a very interesting idea.

That opening track creates a powerful scene; Cheri MacNeil’s gentle voice describes being awoken by loneliness, which leads to her looking out a window at the night sky and the falling snow. She goes on to sing “this is the coming of the Lord,” but this is no praising hymn, she’s thinking about how “He’s not got to us yet”. It’s worth noting that ‘Idealistic Animals’ was written following MacNeil’s loss of faith after around twenty years of devotion to religion, saying she “chose to believe that I was an important part of a saga with a happy ending. Now I am aware that there are no tidy conclusions”. Once you’re aware of this, you begin to notice that the clear structure of the track listing and the balanced nature of the songs are still permeated by a sense of isolation and uncertainty – and, at times, fear. The soothing plucked guitar that opens ‘MOLE (Mole)’ soon drops back to the rise of the drums and the image of a lost mole making friends by colliding in dim tunnels, chosen by God, is a dark one....

Read the rest on GoldFlakePaint

Monday, 2 January 2012

One Of The Finest Albums of 2011 (That I Missed Completely).

As the New Year dawned, it did not cross my mind that I'd missed anything major off my 'Best Of...' list. Sure, it was a struggle to cut down, let alone order. But, I thought, there aren't any glaring omissions....of course, I was completely wrong about that.

In April 2011 Elena Tonra released the first of two EPs, 'His Young Heart', then, in November accompanied by Remi Aguilella on drums she released a second four-track EP, 'The Wild Youth'. Both EPs are hauntingly beautiful, Elena's voice softly murmurs out detailed stories. On 'Landfill' she begs to be left on the train tracks, in the rain, thrown in a landfill, covered by snow or left at the altar. The simplicity of her writing is part of its charm, these descriptions of abandonment surround the crucial line of the song, widely applicable but feeling like a revelation of her darkest secret as she whispers "this is dangerous 'cause I want you so much but I hate your guts".
Both EPs are prime examples of how successful that format can be. Four songs long, each song a fairly average length with mostly one-word titles - if you chose to, you could listen to them together (as I normally do which is why I said album in the title), but there's no need to. Elena Tonra's gentle guitar plucking and husky voice are likely to become a key part of the music I'll listen to in 2012.

Listen to the EPs on Soundcloud or purchase from Bandcamp.