Groovy Uncle – “A Clip Round the Ear” (Album Review)

Located in South East England you’ll find the Medway-based group Groovy Uncle, and they’re back again with the release of their sixth album “A Clip Round the Ear.” The album serves as a nostalgic trip to the 60s for those who remember the era as well as serving as a gateway drug for a new generation to discover that sound for themselves. However, Groovy Uncle isn’t just here to re-create songs from the past for the sake of going down memory lane, but rather using the classic sounds and old-school style songwriting as a springboard into new uncharted territories topped off with a shiny polish for contemporary audiences.

Groovy Uncle is the moniker of singer-songwriter, arranger and guitarist Glenn Prangnell who has surrounded himself with a revolver door of talents through previous albums for a surprise with each release. For “A Clip Round the Ear,” Nick Rice (bass), Mole Lambert (drums) and a full cast of other talented musicians fill out the record with the most notable collaboration being that of vocalist Suzi Chunk, whose flavorful delivery on many of the tracks becomes the main attraction against the backdrop of soulful, energetic and sometimes raw songs found on the record.

“Mrs Saywell Says” opens the album with garage rock optimism by incorporating a catchy chorus, clear groove basslines and Beach Boys-styled guitars that combine into a fun pop song dipped into a vat of lyrical quirkiness. Glenn’s inspiration for this track’s lyrics stem from his parent’s tales of a real life infant school teacher called Mrs. Saywell in the 1930s and 40s who used the classroom’s open coal fire to heat up her rear end. This highlights Glenn’s ability of taking peculiar situations and creating a narrative consisting of memorable characters that are easy to latch onto and cleverly bringing the album to life in the process.

The nods to the 60s and 70s as an influence are especially notable on “Our Gary’s No Fool,” which is seemingly a lost Beatles track featuring John Lennon at the helm. Other songs such as “The Moon and Back” evoke memories of The Clash with its sassy, fun, and rocking sound that is perfect for blasting loud from a convertible in the neighborhood to enrage those still sleeping at dawn. The guitar solo completes the energetic tune and it’s a stand-out track off the album.

Other songs such as “I Thought It Was About Time,” “The Scheme of Things” and “I Really Wouldn’t Know How” are softer and offer an introspective Jazzy experience filled with sophistication and candor. These songs would not sound out of place coming out of a diner’s jukebox from the golden era. Suzi really displays her talent here in delivering emotion as well as articulating the meaning behind the songs and her boldness and vitality take Groovy Uncle to the next level.

The upbeat rocker “Oil and Colour Man” dives into an interesting narrative that applies the album’s title in its lyrics. The song takes inspiration from Glenn’s memories of a man back in the day who would sell items such as soap and lipstick around the neighborhood. The story in the lyrics is the definite highlight of the song and the spoken words and laughter by James Worse adds humor and a touch of distinctiveness. Listeners can truly visualize the character in the song, but it’s your decision to either feel pity or sympathize with this zany man.

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The rest of the songs on the album are either rocking with the occasional use of horns, or slower-paced with sing-a-long melodies that have clear, purposeful vocals, a tight rhythm section and solid production. “A Clip Round the Ear” is ultimately for those seeking a glimpse into a simpler time through light-hearted snippets about not-so-ordinary people told in catchy songs that will get you off your seat and dancing the night away. All the song are short bursts of energy and accessible for newcomers to the genre. If you’re looking for a classic sound injected with experienced yet always curious talent, look no further than Groovy Uncle’s “A Clip Round the Ear.”

The album is available on limited edition green vinyl and CD and is available from groovy-uncle.co.uk and iTunes. Like them out on Facebook.

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Concert Review: Arthur King & The Night Sea and Aaron Espinoza @ The Hi Hat

The Hi-Hat and Dangerbird Records presented an experimental, psychedelic odyssey on Sept. 20 as Arthur King & The Night Sea and Aaron Espinoza (of Earlimart) showed up with music that went beyond the normal audio performance one expects from a concert. A major addition to both sets was the inclusion of visual aids that elevated the already trippy yet calming sounds coming from a variety of instruments.

Highland Park’s The Hi Hat venue offers adequate space for the performers and music lovers to watch on. The building includes a bar, billiards tables and burgers within arm’s reach. It’s the ideal place to get good food, drinks, and watch interesting, boundary-pushing shows at an affordable price. The best aspect is the homey, comfy vibe you get within it all.

Haunting and comforting all at the same time, @theshipstudio #MICRODOSE

A post shared by The Hi Hat (@thehihatla) on

First to take stage was Aaron Espinoza, from indie rock band Earlimart, a Pixies / Sonic Youth post-punk band that’s been around since 1999. Aaron’s performance was a complete opposite of that: a part electronic, part acoustic set both spacey and calming yet daring and alluring. Two screens were placed on each side of the stage, setting the appropriate lighting for his journey through the cosmos. Aaron’s voice was sampled live and played behind his singing voice, producing a chorus of voices that were textured and layered above the various synths and pulsing drum beats. The set was one long, progressive experience that had no defined beginning or end, allowing listeners to get lost in their own trance thoughts and keeping rhythm while doing it. Overall, Aaron’s foray into minimalistic electronica expands our appreciation for his talents and keeps us guessing what he plans on doing next.

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Image via Dangerbird Records

Arthur King & The Night Sea are a white-wearing clad of diverse talents all wrapped into one. Before they begin, a large drape covers the stage, separating the band from the audience. Soon enough there are light projections shot onto it allowing for interesting visuals that almost make it seem like we are watching a movie with a band providing a live soundtrack. The music was atmospheric for the most part, taking dives in and out of jazz, rock, electronic and at times, a mixture of all of them. At one point, the visual aid displayed a first-person view of riding a roller coaster just as the music elevated to a suspenseful state, truly making a cohesive marriage between both sight and sound. Although Arthur King & The Night Sea is mostly instrumental without lyrics, they can convey more feelings, emotions and thoughts with a high level of creative expression. Be sure to show up when this amalgamation of influences and styles comes rolling into a town near you.

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Photo by Isiah Reyes

The combination of these two experimental acts performing in Highland Park is the appropriate marriage between of where the growing artistic town is and where it will be in the upcoming years. Stay tuned for more on Arthur King & The Night Sea, Aaron Espinoza and The Hi Hat.

Agency – Album Review

R&B and Soul artist Agency has recently released his album “Resist,” a political-infused album about the struggle for equality fighting the power. Check out the song “Backwards” from the album here:

“Resist” starts off with a powerful speech followed by sirens. The opening track “What’s Going On (Right Now?)” is a bouncy track but with a powerful message that questions the world we live in. The clap beats give the song an upbeat feel but there is clearly more substance between the surface. “Till & Marrow” is a slower, introspective, and soulful song with R&B influences and sultry voices. You’ll find yourself nodding your head to the beat as well as the message.

The piano and guitar enter the fray in “Rumours” to add a breath of fresh air. Backing vocals and a hip beat mixed with civil rights movement-based lyrics clearly define the album’s message of making a political statement. “Backwards” also uses piano prominently as a groovy instrument with “I won’t go down without a fight” as a line that echoes the album’s namesake in “Resist.”

“Black Boys on Mopeds” (a cover from Sinead O’Connor) opens with acoustic guitar and shows off the album’s variety in styles that make for a rich listening experience. Sonically, there are many elements that make up the sum of this album’s parts; for example, sound clips of historical audio clips are played throughout the album in tasteful ways to add context to the theme of the album. Agency’s Drake-like voice also adds a layer of flavor to the sound, as it is strong yet vulnerable and yearns for a positive change in the face of hopelessness. “March on Babylon” even adds trumpets to the mix for a truly exotic feel and “Red to the Moon” has strings and mechanical background noise to truly round out the listening journey. The avant-garde approach on some of the songs is akin to the likes of FKA Twigs and suitable for anyone looking for a new, bold, and enriching collection of music.

Overall, “Resist” is an essential for any R&B fan but also anyone who enjoys a wide spectrum of music, as it covers a lot of ground in its scope and execution. The songwriting is top-notch and the message is always present, making for a cohesive piece of art that stays on track while utilizing an array of tools in the music making department.

To stay up to date with all things Agency, be sure to check him out on Facebook, Twitter, iTunes, and Soundcloud.

zenxienz – Album Review

Hong Kong-born musician, producer, and songwriter, Cameron Williamson, aka zenxienz, has released his second full-length album for 2017 titled “Brainforest” on August 4. Listen to the album on Bandcamp here:

 

The opening track “Insignia” is a full burst instrumental rife with colorful sounds that mix both electronic and tribal-sounding drums, enchanting piano and an immense amount of creativity that sets the table as to what’s to come. The Middle Eastern vibe is traditional with a strong dosage of modern influences. “Undercurrents” continues the electronic sound but with a more intense EDM and dance vibe that pulsates at every turn. It’s the perfect song for those hot nights at a glow in the dark festival where you just want to lose your mind, body, and soul in the music. The album is the audio translation of a painting full of vivid colors and strange shapes all colliding into each other to produce a unique visual image. The beats throughout the album are fast yet the melodic keyboards that accompany them are slow, majestic and space-like to the point where being surprised becomes the expectation.

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Image via zenxienz

“Pico” has vocal sound samples mix with heavy bass and disjointed drums all put into a synthesizer blender that melts away all conventions about what music is supposed to sound like. The drum style changes pace, style and tempo all in a matter of seconds making it a stand-out track that is destined to be blasted against a backdrop of strobe lights and beer cups held in the air. The sound of the album is heavily electronic, constantly changing through different methods of expression in both planning and execution. Soaring synthesizers add layers of discover that make for repeated listens, as this is not an album that could be fully understood in just one spin. The amount of rave and hardcore dance injected in each track will be enough to last for a very long time.

Some tracks like “Coiled” are a bit darker in tone with vocal tracks making small appearances to keep you on your toes of what to expect. Though most of the songs border on being dubstep, they do not stray into the territory of being loud and abrasive for the sake of it. The psychedelic drums and bass have deeper intentions with many breakdowns that give you a breather from dancing and trancing about. The breaks allow for recuperation, reflection on introspection, and allows you to take in the moment with someone new as you’ll most likely be listening to this new age, off-the-rails record at a blistering venue. The sounds, although chaotic, are therapeutic even for those swaying alone to the rhythmic madness alone in a room.

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Image via zenxienz

There’s no doubt that the sounds from zenxienz will continue to impress for many years to come. For now, let’s all enjoy what this masterful electronic musician has created: an inspiring connection with others through sounds, mental images and creativity. To stay up to date with all things zenxienz, be sure to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Bandcamp, Spotify, Soundcloud, and his official site.

Jay Hunna – Song Review

Jay Hunna released a new music video for his track “Good Ol’ Music” from his upcoming “Better Days” album coming out Sept. 8. Check out the track here:

Hailing from the south side of Chicago, Jay’s inspiration for his debut album “Better Days” comes from the tragic death of his cousin Sandra Bland, which sparked nationwide attention in July 2015. Sandra Bland closes out the album on the track entitled “Land of The Free.” To tell his story in the album, Jay looks to Hip-Hop artists such as Jay Z, Tupac, Notorious BIG and others and takes elements of their style. Some of those elements can be heard in “Good Ol’ Music,” which celebrates Hip-Hop and independent record shops as seen in the video. Jay visits a shop and picks up classic records from legendary rap acts all while giving a very chill vibe that celebrates recognizing where we come from and the importance of community. Although the song talks about coming from humble beginnings, the track is also proving that we don’t always have to stay there.

Lyrically, the song begins with Jay expressing his appreciation for music at a young age and how he would go up to his room and use music when he was feeling down to feel like new again. The chorus is about relaxing, smoking, drinking, and listening to good ol’ music, and the chill beats allow for the listener to do the same when they blast this track at full volume. Jay comes off as a man who wants to enjoy the good times and not worry about the problems of the world, making him the perfect candidate to deliver a fresh track that celebrates the inspirations of legends past as well.

Overall, the song is recommended for anyone who prefers the more laid-back style rappers compared to their super hard counterparts. There will no doubt heavy-bangers on the rest of the album, so we’re excited to hear what comes next from Jay and his upcoming “Better Days.”

To find out more about Jay check him out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and his official site.