Shoot the Moon – The art of writing a painting

Glasgow based jazz ensemble Mezcla. (Credit: Mezcla)

With a sound that blends world music, Latin influences and traditional jazz, Mezcla have established themselves as one of the central characters of the new wave Scottish Jazz scene. Today, the Glasgow ensemble have released their eagerly awaited debut Shoot the Moon.

Band leader David Bowden met me in the laid-back hangout Glad Cafe to talk about the album’s sound, the inspiration behind some of the songs and his plans for the future.

After a sip of coffee and a bite of cake, David told me about the sound of the record: “It’s a development of what’s been heard before… this is kind of the culmination of everything we’ve done so far.”

“There’s definitely some Scottish influence there,” which led us onto how locations can act as inspiration. “Pieces can be more like vibes or moods… like a painting of a landscape, you can evoke that with instrumental music.”

After pausing for a second, Bowden disclosed, “Honestly jazz musicians often struggle naming tunes and then think ‘I like that place – let’s go with that!’”

Continuing on the topic of process: “Usually the ideas are not really connected to much, generally it’s stuff that just comes to me like a tune or a riff, that usually comes into my head when I’m trying to do something else,” adding, “I had one recently on the London underground where I sang it and then listening back, it’s all just the noise of the underground… without the chords, it’s sometimes just mindless babbling.”

Our conversation then shifted to plans for the future: “For the band, the hope is to get more festivals around the UK and touring Europe a bit more as we’ve yet to do that with this band.

“I’d like to put music out with the band more regularly,” concluding that he wants to “keep developing the sound more.”

We end on the upcoming tour, which begins with the album launch at London jazz club Vortex on the February 12, but David admits that the Glasgow gig will “spiritually and emotionally” feel like record’s opening.

To hear the full conversation listen to the track below:

Album Review: ‘Funeral’ by Lil Wayne

Returning to the limelight with his highly anticipated project ‘Funeral’, Lil Wayne may have secured another winner with his 13th studio album.

The New Orleans native first teased the album in 2016, before ceasing to reference it again until late 2019, when a coffin emoji appeared on his Instagram story. Now, just a week after its official announcement, ‘Funeral’ has landed.

The much anticipated ‘Funeral’ by Lil Wayne is out now. (Cover Art: Young Money Entertainment)

The album has been described by Wayne as a much different and more contemporary sound than its predecessor – 2018’s ‘Tha Carter V’.

The title track, backed by a symphony of string instruments that trips into a soft bass and snare, is a raw, emotionally-fuelled opening to the album. ‘Mahogany’ follows, which is a quick switch in tempo. Throughout a breathless delivery, Wayne is flawless over the trippy, hazed-out vocals that make up the instrumental.

Mixing sounds and moving with the times has never been an issue for Wayne. At least one successful album released in one of the last four decades proves the evergreen qualities that Wayne sports as an artist.

The third and fourth track are representative of this. Whilst ‘Mama Mia’ contains lyrics and a dark, metallic backing track that wouldn’t sound out of place in a SoundCloud rapper’s discography. ‘I Do It’ reminds one of a Gunna or Young Thug track. Containing the first features of the album, ‘I Do It’ features veteran Big Sean, who croons through the choruses, and Lil Baby, who provides a short, but sweet verse.

What follows are three tracks in succession, which differ tremendously in style, and flex Wayne’s various artistic capabilities. ‘Dreams’ is loud, aggressive and almost unhappy, whilst ‘Stop Playing With Me’ is a confident, fast-paced assurance of Wayne’s position in the hip-hop community, and his coolness on the mic. ‘Clap For Em’ contains another bass-heavy instrumental that feels very Latin-inspired with a sound that you’d expect to hear in a nightclub.

Jay Rock makes an appearance on ‘Bing James’, a track that for the most part, reminds one of something that Chief Keef or Lil Gnar may produce, in its autotuned, aggressive tones.

If ‘Bing James’ is the high, ‘Not Me’ is the comedown that follows, as it layers the listener’s ears with a sad, melancholic sound.

Adam Levine appears on ‘Trust Nobody’ – not a name you’d associate with Lil Wayne. As predicted, this track is a lot calmer, and more family-friendly, even containing a couple verses from bedtime prayer ‘Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep’.

The next four tracks are fairly strong, but not the most memorable from the album. 2 Chainz and Takeoff appear across two songs, but honestly, don’t really provide anything other than what you’d expect from them. ‘I Don’t Sleep’ is probably the better of the four, with a light-hearted instrumental, and a bouncy, fun delivery from Wayne.

Three features appear on the following four tracks – The-Dream, Lil Twist and the late XXXTENTACION. ‘Sights and Silencers’ is admittedly nothing spectacular, and whilst Lil Twist is a welcome introduction in ‘Ball Hard’, it’s ‘Get Outta My Head’ which piques interest. Lil Wayne compliments XXXTENTACION well on the track, which is actually a rework of ‘The Boy With The Black Eyes’ – a track that the latter originally recorded in 2016.

‘Piano Trap’ is a triumphant-sounding celebration of Wayne’s success, whilst ‘Line Em Up’ reintroduces the snares and rapid backing track we had a glimpse of earlier in the album. ‘Darkside’ is unfortunately fairly forgettable, but ‘Never Mind’, whilst not Wayne’s best track by any means, sticks to the new sound that he was trying to go for, and feels like it has a lot of replay value.

O.T. Genasis appears on the penultimate track ‘T.O.’, which is a wild journey from start to finish. An instrumental that feels wacky and all-over-the-place works its way behind a delivery from Wayne and O.T. that deals mostly in the ‘triplet flow’ that Migos popularised.

The final track on this album, ‘Wayne’s World’, is a good finish to an album that starts sombre and gradually works its way up. ‘Funeral’ was Wayne at the morgue, but ‘Wayne’s World’ is him sealing his resurrection and celebrating his return.

All in all, ‘Funeral’ is a strong album. Whilst it’s not Wayne’s best work to date, it certainly lives up to his promise of a more contemporary sound. Although he’s been on the scene since 1999, Wayne has been one of the quickest of the ‘old guard’ to adopt and work with this new sound that has developed in the 2010s.

The album is sombre and woeful at points, angry and in-your-face at others, and proud and dominant at others. Admittedly, there are tracks you may completely forget about post-album, but all things in consideration, Wayne has kicked off this new decade in an undoubtedly positive fashion.

4/5 STARS

The return of National Album Day: What it’s about and what’s on

A year on from its successful debut, National Album Day is set to return on October 12, with celebrations being held throughout the UK.

Teaming up with BBC Sounds –  who are supporting the day as an official broadcast partner – several events and activities have been set up to highlight the UK’s love of the album.

‘Don’t Skip’ is this year’s theme, encouraging music fans to listen to albums both new and old in full, in order to appreciate the entire body of work. This theme also serves to highlight the mental health benefits of listening to albums, which are said to provide listeners with a sense of musical mindfulness.

Several of the UK’s most prominent artists have signed up as ‘album champions’ in support of this years campaign, including No. 1 artist Lewis Capaldi, Mercury Prize winners Elbow, BRIT award nominee Mahalia and international producer/musician Mark Ronson.

Mahalia said she was supporting National Album Day to feel a sense of nostalgia.

“I see myself as an ‘album artist’, which in my world means timeless music that you don’t skip past,” she said.  “I want to make whole pieces of work that other little girls like me find comfort in listening to; a 40 to 60 minute dreamland where they can be away from the world. That’s why I’m supporting National Album Day. Streaming has changed everything. I want the kids younger than me to feel about albums how I did.”

 

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The continuing impact of the album

Despite the musical landscape being in a state of constant flux, albums have secured a high popularity in the UK, maintaining a strong cultural and economic relevance. As reported by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) earlier this year, 143 million albums or their equivalent were either streamed, purchased or downloaded in the UK in 2018, an amount that is worth approximately £1.3 billion in retail, and representing a near 6% rise on the year before. As part of this, 4.2 million vinyl LPs were sold, a 2000% rise since their low point in 2007 and the 11th year of consecutive growth for the medium.

An ERA tracking study in May 2018 provides further evidence of the formats continuing relevance, which showed that nearly 60% of respondents listened to in album in full a month prior to taking the survey. Despite the belief that albums are associated with older music consumers, the research suggested that younger fans were far more likely to have listened to an album with 55% of those polled aged 25 or below saying they had listened to an album in the previous week. In comparison only 45% of 45-54 year olds and 33% of those aged 55 and above could say the same.

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In addition, recent studies have also highlighted the positive mental health benefits of listening to albums. A survey conducted in August this year specifically commissioned for National Album Day found that around 80% of participants use albums to relax and around 70% listened to Albums when they were feeling down or considered them a source of comfort.

Author and academic Dr Julia Jones said listening to an album helps listeners get away from the stresses of our daily lives.

“We’ve been aware of the scientific evidence regarding the positive effects of music on the brain and body for decades,” Dr Jones said. “We also know that taking ‘time out’ of our hectic schedules is essential to maintain our well-being. So the album offers a perfect recipe for delivering the cocktail of neurochemical and physiological benefits, while also ensuring we enjoy an extended break.”

 

What To Expect From National Album Day

In commemoration of the event, HMV has procured a list of 26 albums to be released as coloured vinyls on Oct. 11, just in time for National Album Day. This varied lineup features Queen, Lady Gaga and Mumford & Sons.

Each record will be available in HMV stores and are available for preorder online. For a full list of vinyls on offer be sure to check out the National Album Day website, here.

In addition, as part of Scotland’s celebrations, HMV Ocean Terminal will be hosting will be playing host to live music on the day, featuring local artists Acid Club, Screamin’ Whisper and Liam Clayton.

Outside of Scotland, a touring exhibition has been making the rounds throughout the UK, celebrating the variety of sounds within the country. After making several stops throughout the UK’s rail including Glasgow and Manchester throughout the month of September, the exhibition’s final stop will be in London with the event lasting until Oct. 19.

In terms of radio, BBC Sounds will be acting as the Official broadcaster for National Album Day, providing programming throughout the BBC Network.

For a comprehensive list of events throughout the UK be sure to click here for more information via the National Album Day website.

Review: Weezer (Black Album)

California kings Weezer return this week with their thirteenth and eagerly awaited new release Weezer (Black Album).

This is the sixth self titled/coloured album released by Rivers and the gang. Blue, Green, Red, White and most recently Teal have all come before. Teal in particular had the music world talking: dropped from out of nowhere with zero hype back in January, an album of retro covers to keep fans content whilst they wait for new music, and a friendly reminder that Weezer have always been good to their fans.

 It can’t be helped but to compare all of these colours, and in doing so the listener can really hear the evolution of a band 23 years into their career. 2019’s Black is worlds apart from 1995’s Blue, as even the idea of drum samples and trumpets would make a mid 90s Weezer fan shudder. This latest album features all of the above, a comfortable next step on the Weezer journey, but also another step toward the mainstream that the band were once so shunned from.

Weezer_BlackAlbum

(Credit: Atlantic Records)

 Songs like Can’t Knock the Hustle and Byzantine wouldn’t sound out of place on a mainstream radio show, but certainly wouldn’t belong on a classic Weezer playlist. However, it has to be said that the Rivers Cuomo of old shines through in tunes like High as a Kite, and particularly The Prince who Wanted Everything. It’s songs like these that remind fans why they’ve remained with the band through the good times (Pinkerton) and bad times (Raditude)

 It seems that more and more with each release, Weezer divide their fans: the purists who claim they lost it years ago, and the die-hards who stick with them through every track (Saturday Night Live even referenced this in a sketch featuring Matt Damon). But Weezer (Black Album) is a comfortable reminder that the LA band have still got it, and there is enough material here to keep both sides of the argument happy.

 

 

‘The sun will come up’: words of wisdom from Nina Nesbitt.

nina article heading 2

Singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt. (Credit: Justin Higuchi)

Scottish singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt is back with her new album The sun will come up, the seasons will change. And it’s exactly what some of us need to hear right now. 

As well as being talented in the love and heartbreak department, Nina Nesbitt’s new album has a few other golden threads running through it. Post-adolescent confusion, disappointments and a mighty dose of girl power also lie within the lyrics of many of her songs. At her acoustic set in Edinburgh this week, the 24-year-old met with fans and spoke of the personal struggles that influenced her album.

the tricky business

Track number four on the album Chloe is about the hard realisation that childhood friendships inevitably begin to change. Many of us have the felt the pang of sadness when we realise our closest friends will not be five minutes down the road forever. At age 22 one of her friends fell pregnant, a moment she still remembers today. Nina told the audience:

“And I realised that we were moving on from being kids and becoming adults, which was terrifying. It’s a song about that sort of transition and as women all going down different paths and that being okay.”

These are the moments I’m missing is another poignant one, highlighting the bittersweet feeling of nostalgia. Knowing that childhood is something that passes us by like the flick of a switch, and that we should have spent more time relishing the freedoms childhood brings. Instead many of us spend this time in our lives wishing we could grow up.

“These are the moments I never took in when, I was just standing there wishing, that I could grow up and my life would be different.”

love 2

 

The best you had, perhaps one of the most moving tracks on the album, tells the story of a love that has moved on quickly and the hurt that follows. It’s about hanging onto the memories of a love that once was and that it’s ok that someone has moved on, because you both know that what you both once had was special.

Loyal to me – May the meetings of a female’s pack of FBI agents commence. Independent woman is written all over this track. When a man’s reluctance to let the rest of the world know you exist begins to show, there is only one thing to do.

“If you start to question is he loyal to me? Well then he’s probably not and you should probably leave.”

tomorrow is another day

“The sun will come up, the seasons will change.”

When uncertainty comes our way, or tempestuous emotions get the better of us know that “The sun will come up, the seasons will change.” It can be a lesson we are not even aware that we are learning, the title track talks about a subtle realisation that at the end of any dark day, the sun will rise the next. No matter the disappointments, the changes we’re not ready for or the heartbreak we endure, the world spins continuously on. It’s the last song on the album, tying all the other lyrics we have heard into a perfect bow.

You can buy tickets for Nina’s upcoming tour here.

“I Can’t Quit” – Review

The Vaccines are back with their fairly anticipated single ‘I Can’t Quit’.

I was slightly nervous about this considering the experimentation of their last album, ‘English Graffiti’ was slightly disappointing. However they have went back to basics with this new single – hopefully a good sign of what’s to come from upcoming album, ‘Combat Sports’.

‘I Can’t Quit’ begins with a simple, but effective,  Brit rock style riff. It seems they’re taking a leaf out of bands like The Kinks and The Undertone’s books. The simple guitar emphasises the edgier vocals. This simplicity creates a decent impact when the chorus kicks in, introducing the bass.

Upcoming album, ‘Combat Sports’ is out 30th March 2018. Credit: iTunes

The chorus is catchy but sounds very familiar to a couple of other songs. The two breaks are efficient as they don’t slow down or break the flow of the song.  The solo is catchy and short to keep the listener anticipating the final chorus.

Overall I’m happy with The Vaccine’s rudimentary return to simple, indie, Brit rock. This single wouldn’t feel out of place on their first album, ‘What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?, their most successful album and my personal favourite.

Hopefully, they’ll become a better competitor to the majority of Britain’s current derivative and imitative smorgasbord of indie trash.

Reputation: A Review

Once again: Taylor Swift is back.

 

The highly anticipated 6th studio album, Reputation, was released on Friday (Nov. 10th) and it is expected to smash records all around. The album has sold over 700,000 copies in the United States alone on it’s first day, making it the biggest selling album of 2017 – with an expectation of 1.5 million copies to be sold worldwide in the first week.

 

Critics are calling it her best album yet. They say it is cohesive, strong and controlled. And to that, I agree.

 

The songs found on Reputation are proud and fierce. This album takes on the 21st century music scene as she delves into electronic pop.

 

The use of vocal effects add to the sultry ‘Delicate’ and the ode to modern fairy tales ‘King of My Heart,’ give the album extra layers and concepts that are usually unheard of from Swift.

 

But what really makes this album unique to her previous five, is that she truly has found her sound.

Reputation is Swift’s most successful album. Source: Kendal Dick

 

Lead single, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ informed us that the “old Taylor is dead.” Though met with a mix of admiration and secondhand embarrassment – it is very true.

 

This album is introducing a Taylor we have never met. Though she is still singing about love, betrayal and break-ups, she is exposing more than ever before.

 

Reputation is intimate and passionate, and it is clear she has matured since the release of 1989. ‘Dress’ is her most explicit song yet – full of innuendos and a chorus that reads “I only bought this dress so you could take it off.”

 

And though I admire that Taylor has grown up and is taking control of her own narrative,  I can’t help but despise just how petty she can be. ‘This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’ almost sounds like she and her friends are chanting at a boy who was mean to her. She also regularly mentions “shade” and “receipts” at points throughout the album, and honestly, it’s time to get over it.

 

The album as a whole starts off strong with fast paced lyrics, strong beats and a collaboration with Future and Ed Sheeran thrown in at the start on ‘End Game.’ The second half of the album is calmer as it draws to an end with ‘New Year’s Day’ – the simplest song on the record.

 

On a first listen, I felt this song did not belong on this particular album. It is stripped back to vocals, piano and strings – there is no sign of computers. It initially sounds like it should belong on her 4th album Red, but the more I listen, the more I understand how it fits on Reputation.

 

The song is a reflection on a magical NYE party. There is a huge sense of nostalgia as Swift tells us to hold on to the memories. And though the old Taylor may be gone, she is still remembered and she played a very big role in the creation of this electric record.

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