Free From Gravity – Step Into The Sunlight

Hailing from Portsmouth, Free From Gravity’s album Step Into The Sunlight is a true reflection of the band’s commitment to delivering big songs that are packed with a distinctively British sound.

Free From Gravity - Step Into The SunlightLead single ‘The Long Road’ immediately establishes the band’s sound, drenched with a classic Brit sound that nods towards a mid-Nineties britpop sound. Starting out gently, as the track progresses it unfolds to reveal more and more layers. A swirling organ arrives in the mix, raising the sound upwards with an upbeat, positive feel. There are splashes of the Stone Roses here and there, creating a tone that manages to blend together the joy of nostalgia with the fizz of hearing something fresh and new. ‘Dance With Me’ cranks the dials up a few notches with a blistering guitar intro and thundering drums. The track is bursting at the seams with a classic rock vibe, and yet take the time to look beneath the surface and there are some hints of Fountains Of Wayne and even a Byrdsian jangle-pop feel. Add to the mix some gorgeous vocal harmonies and this stands out as a true feel good track. Ever pushing the envelope, ‘Saints & Sinners’ drives the guitars ever harder, this time shifting into a more bluesy American tone. The trademark vocal harmonies are still present, however, and as a result the band’s signature sound is still very much there. It’s a real rock and roller of a track, the kind of song that you’d want on in the car while you’re hurtling down the motorway, preferably with the wind in your hair and a hunger for some adventure. Just when you think you’ve got the band all figured out, you then come across a song like the album’s title track, ‘Step Into The Sunlight’, which is a laid back ballad with gentle guitar chords leading into an expressive lead guitar solo. As to be expected, all those classic rock elements are present, coming together to create a building epic sound. It’s undemanding on the listener, and yet manages to go beyond simply being easy listening – the fact that Free From Gravity would describe their sound as “soft rock with attitude” pretty much sums it up effectively. This is music that you can put on and let it entertain you without feeling as though you are being forced to grapple with some kind of awkward, mathy prog rock. Let’s face it, sometimes you just want to put something on that’s going to deliver some good vibes, and that’s exactly what is on offer here. Add to that the fact that it is being created by people who clearly have a deep passion and energy to create the music they love, and enjoy sharing it with the world. They say music is one of the things that can truly bring people together, and Free From Gravity have worked hard to stick to that idea. Their current fanbase will undoubtedly be overjoyed with this collection of songs, and it also serves as an ideal entry point into their music.

Across The Board – Don’t Drag Me Down

For International Women’s Day, female fronted Canadian rock band Across The Board have released ‘Don’t Drag Me Down’ into the wild. What’s not to like? Short and to the point, coming in at under three minutes long, it’s a track full to the brim with intention. Setting the scene with a quick look back over the shoulder, the lyrics “You know you took me for a fool / It was nothing short of cruel” establish as sense of what has passed, while it’s now time to look ahead: “Don’t Drag Me Down /Stop foolin’ around.” Musically there is a deep indie/emo vibe going on – the band happily refer to Metric and Broken Social Scene as influences. The guitars are tight and spiky, the rhythm section is strong and works hard to hold everything in its right place, while Jacqueline Auguste’s sultry vocal serves as the rudder leading the way forward for the good ship Across The Board. Political without ever being preachy, Across The Board’s ‘Don’t Drag Me Down’ serves as an excellent reminder of the ongoing issues that surround us today while we continue to seek and fight for equality. That a band can get that message across in under three minutes with such effect is to be respected.

Madelyn Victoria – Hold On

Madelyn Victoria - Hold OnHailing from the deep south of Texas, Madelyn Victoria’s songwriting career started when she was just 13 years old. Unsurprisingly, her music features a healthy dose of country, with her vocal truly drenched in that deep melancholy tone that sends shivers down your spine. Comparisons with Shania Twain and Sheryl Crow might be slightly lazy but no less fair, as Madelyn’s voice certainly recalls elements of those familiar vocalists. ‘Hold On’ is an ideal introduction to her writing and vocal style – classic Americana laced with a bluesy rock vibe. With a distinctive sound, many elements of the track bring up all kinds of reminders of music from the past, particularly songs from R.E.M.’s classic Out Of Time, a record that was full to the brim with deep south sounds such as ‘Country Feedback’ and ‘Me In Honey’. Where Madelyn Victoria stands out from the crowd, however, is her upbeat attitude and positive tone. Where so often country music is laced with sadness to the point of dragging you down with it, Madelyn’s music has a joyful feel to it that lifts up the listener and invites you to look up and over the challenges that might surround you. Be it on a road trip, or having a quiet night in, ‘Hold On’ is a song suitable for all kinds of occasions and is sure to lift your spirits.

Scott Beaton – Eclectic Soup

Scott Beaton’s Eclectic Soup is a rich haze of experimental moments which all interlock to create a coherent whole. Making use of spoken samples, mashed up and contorted, and pitching them against strong bass melodies that provide a strong foundation, there is a sense in Beaton’s production that a whole new world is being created from the ground up. Just as the first album from Rustie broke many boundaries with his fizzing, excitable EDM, Scott Beaton reveals a similar approach but comes at it with much more restraint. There are even moments where the current trend for mining the riches of the Eighties rears its head. Even on the tracks where there is a stronger beat, the sense that something is being held back always remains. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll begin to notice the ethereal sonic wash that runs beneath Beaton’s music like a dreamy undercurrent. For sure, these tracks all have a connection and a kinship, despite the way they all manage to stand out on their own terms with their own distinctive aesthetic. Eclectic Soup lies somewhere in between the kind of songs that you might want to put on to kick back and chill out, and the kind that you would use to stir up your mind when looking for a flash of inspiration. That middle ground is hard to find in a lot of music, but you just might find it here.

HwH – Distant Echoes

Bursting out of the speakers with all kinds of surprises, HwH’s Distant Echoes brings together aspects of psych, blues, and good old fashioned rock and roll. Kicking off with ‘Walls’, the dreamy, swirling organ is the first thing to grab you by the ears and drag you kicking and screaming into its crazy world of its own invention. From the start, it’s a good introduction to HwH’s trademark sound – laid back but with a firm confidence and a fearlessness when it comes to mashing a whole bag of sound together to create an epic landscape of noise. There is a depth of prog rock that runs through the record, which is made particularly apparent on ‘The Misadventures of the Cynical Crytic’, a glorious love letter to Pink Floyd. By contrast, ‘Coqui’ features some reggae inspired flair that adds to the sense of sheer fun that the band clearly has not only when playing live but also in the whole writing and recording process. It’s a track that defies categorisation, as halfway through it slides through into some kind of musical parallel universe where psychedelia rules the roost, and face melting guitar solos are the only language spoken. This then leads into the ‘Mediterranea Prelude’, which sets the scene for the upcoming three song epic. Sound swirls, pianos offer their delicate melodies, before we lunge headfirst into ‘Mediterranea Two’ (yes, that’s right, two) with an aggressive growl from overdriven guitars that add a rougher flavour to the mix. Then we are treated to some wandering synth notes that add to the sense of musical language in this other world we have been transported to. This leads, naturally, into ‘Mediterranea One’, here led by a hazy vocal that stumbles along in a half insane fashion and laced with a spiky sense of humour. Momentarily the sound pulls back to reveal the sonic wash that lies beneath, while phased tones create the effect of futuristic jet planes flying by overhead. Layer upon layer of warbling sound builds and builds as the guitars add their insistent throbs and melodies, creating a dreamy and intoxicating sensation to carry the listener ever deeper into their world. As the choral voices rise up, it is as though we are then led through into another level with glacial, celestial qualities. Naturally, this next level turns out to be ‘Mediterranea Three’, where the addition of that classic cowbell sound provides a lead into the moment when things pull back once again for a dreamy, Pink Floydian moment of calm. Of course, that calm is always short lived and laced with the sense that something crazy is just around the corner. at times, the prog rock influences even have the occasional nod to moments on Radiohead’s OK Computer and the crescendos of the Polyphonic Spree. By way of drawing everything that HwH appears to stand for, ‘Clean The Pipes’ serves as both a palate cleanser and an ideal presentation of the sounds that the band have managed to excel at to create their own distinctive tone. Distant Echoes is one wild ride, to throw it on for a spin, sit back, at let it take you away on its wild journey of sonic adventures.

Julian Kelly – Fish of Plenty

When trying to communicate effectively, it’s often best to say something as concisely as possible. Why use a lot of words and cause confusion, when a few will do to get your point across? This can often be the case with music – many times keeping things simple is the best approach to ensure you achieve the most powerful effect.

That is very much the case with the song in point right here. While there might not be any big fireworks, the power and energy lies very much within it, and as a result the listener will find themselves curiously rattled despite things being so calm and sedate.

From her new album Alive, Julian Kelly’s ‘Fish Of Plenty’ is the perfect introduction to her soulful vocals. At first, there are glimpses of Desiree’s ‘Kissing You’ and moments of influence from Mariah Carey, while the whole time her voice succeeds in standing out with its own unique sound. Minimalistic, stripped back with long notes played out on a Rhodesy piano, ‘Fish Of Plenty’ is so utterly relaxed and laid back that it’s the kind of song that keeps the listener on the hook (pun intended) rather than led into a sleepy haze.

 

Joe Welch & Junior Kain – Freakin’ House Addicted

From start to finish, Joe Welch & Junior Kain’s ‘Freakin’ House Addicted’ is a thumping, pumping dance floor filler that grabs the listener by the scruff of the neck and refuses to let go until it has decided for itself when it’s over. What makes the track stand out in particular is the way in which it uses a variety of different elements to keep things interesting throughout. Rather than just banging ahead with one single mantra that is so prevalent in trance music, ‘Freakin’ House Addicted’ throws in some spoken samples that add texture and dynamic to the song, stirring up the track’s theme and punctuating it to create a sense of movement and energy. It’s fair to say that it’s the kind of track that is going to get house fans in a tizzy, while the chances are it would most likely leave all the indie kids cold, but why should that matter? What is on offer here is a celebration of the dance genre, with throwbacks to classic soul and R&B tropes, particularly in the snappy, twanging guitars and parping brass samples. Next time you are getting ready to go out and throw some shapes on the dance floor, try putting this on your playlist and it will definitely get you in the mood.

Leo Salom – Shades Of Faith

Leo Salom - Shades Of FaithFrom the opening elements of Leo Salom’s Shades Of Faith, there is a comforting warmth to the minimalism that runs through the three tracks on offer. ‘Much Better’ begins with a synth wash which takes its time to unfold and gradually reveal a weightiness that is then found in the pulsing beat that kicks in. In true minimalist fashion, the beat doesn’t insist on sticking around, but sensitively draws away at key points to allow the track to breathe and for other parts to step to the forefront. Reversed cymbals flow in and out, while distant synth stabs create a dark but cosy feeling, punctuating the track and keeping it on course. ‘Desire’ continues in the same vein, with more of that deep and brooding tone which then gives way to a powerful dance beat that makes for a perfect club sound to get bodies dancing. Aesthetically what makes Leo Salom’s sound distinctive is the particular use of reverb on certain elements, which creates a sense of space and depth throughout every moment. This is made all the more apparent on ‘Long Nights’, which takes a classic dubsteb backdrop and places a honking, brassy melody over the top. It’s deep and dark, and certainly the kind of minimalist tunes that are required during the sleepy bus ride home at 2am after the club beats have finished rocking you.