Album review: Bon Iver – 22, A Million

In praise of Justin Vernon’s cryptically-coated latest.


Originally published for The Edge’s album of the year countdown

Justin Vernon‘s storied process behind 2007’s For Emma, Forever Ago – rambling from reality into a remote crevice of Wisconsin, setting up residence in a cabin in the woods, waving bears away from stew in nothing but his pants, spending three months putting together a gorgous debut album, etc. – is one that has at many points throughout 2016 looked rather appealing. Moreso in a year that has shown a relentless determination to quash all that is comforting and hopeful, his sincerely warm songwriting provides assurance, and 22, A Million strays from his frostbitten products of seclusion by venturing from normalcy towards experimention in every facet imaginable. Continue reading “Album review: Bon Iver – 22, A Million”

Live review: HONNE at The Haunt, Brighton

The intimate duo plays an emphatic sold out seafront set.

Originally published in The Edge

Speaking of musicians “blowing roofs” off venues is often so utterly vapid that it pains me to even acknowledge its prevalence, yet HONNE’s tour stop on the Brighton seafront came disconcertingly close to causing severe damage. The Haunt, decked appropriately for the pre-Hallowe’en set with mock cobwebs and a ghoulish icon on its façade, is a venue so well buried at the base of the famously cosmopolitan city that it shares its address with a coach station and remains invisible to Google’s Street View mapping, hidden behind a protruding hostel corner from the south and at the end of a pedestrian alleyway from the north – one in which a charming gent on a bench offered me cocaine from a bag-for-life as I ventured for a post-interview/pre-show sandwich. With every song came larger cheers and wider smiles; with every other beat of ‘Coastal Love’ that blended with the ambience of the pier across the road came a dip in the floor under the stress of the movement. Continue reading “Live review: HONNE at The Haunt, Brighton”

“Intimate is a good word to describe it” – An interview with HONNE

We get cosy in a van just before their sold-out Brighton tour date.

Originally published in The Edge

In July, London-based electro-soul duo HONNE released Warm On A Cold Night, an exquisite compendium of heartfelt musings and engulfing melodies, and their sold-out tour of the nation to support it following a number of sojourns to festival stages across the world saw them take in the chilly sea breeze around The Haunt in Brighton on the first day of 2016’s darker nights. Shortly before the gig we ventured backstage with James Hatcher and Andy Clutterbuck, taking shelter in Liv Dawson‘s tour van to talk about the goings-on of their early musical inspirations, why remixing on the road still proves impractical, and their striking recent releases of a sensual ‘Good Together‘ video and ‘FHKD‘ adorned with Kill J‘s whispers. Continue reading ““Intimate is a good word to describe it” – An interview with HONNE”

EP review: The Chainsmokers – Collage

Another brief compendium that fails to convey the melodic character apparently lost in their year-long remix drought, Collage sees The Chainsmokers grate their way into your eardrums and out of your hearts.

Originally published in The Edge

What ‘#SELFIE’ did to promote The Chainsmokers across the globe, it counteracted by ruthlessly haemorrhaging their credibility. Before, they were merely two dudes – Alex Pall and Drew Taggart – making bad jokes in the SoundCloud descriptions of tender (and thoroughly enjoyable) amplifications of tracks by alt-indie luminaries like Jónsi, Phoenix, and The Killers. Then, one gimmicky pissabout signed by Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak label later, they had a string of club dates and festival appearances, a hilariously dreadful American Idol performance, and millions of new listeners who looked forward to their next move much as they did with DJ Ötzi and the Crazy Frog. Somehow, having resettled themselves with an official mix for Bastille, they began again, building up to 2015’s original EP Bouquet and global chart residency over the twelve months that followed. Continue reading “EP review: The Chainsmokers – Collage”

Album review: Craig David – Following My Intuition

Failing to meet the consistent standard set by the big collaborations that sparked his return, Southampton’s idol may be once again spritely and well-set but his latest record fails to compel.

Originally published in The Edge

My childhood recollections of Craig David are sparse – a duet with Sting here, a grating (even for a six-year-old) advert for Mattel’s Flavas dolls there, beanie hats, rubber masks, and such – and, given the first stint of his brief career rode on the tails of 2000’s smash Born To Do It, rather comprehensive. That he spends much of Following My Intuition, his first album of wholly original material since a greatest hits collection of 2008, rehashing what we have heard and thoroughly enjoyed before is unsurprising, however the blandness of the newest material and the lack of perceptible depth beyond the existing singles are at times overwhelming. Continue reading “Album review: Craig David – Following My Intuition”

Live review: LANY at Heaven, London

The synthpop band finds Where The Hell Its Friends Are.

Originally published in The Edge

Particularly in this age of vehement digital obsessions, it’s not tricky to observe obsessive teenage mentalities from a relatively safe distance or even unintentionally kick a nest of Beliebers, whose attempts to insult me were as unimpressive as his music at the time. Yet, that idea of swooning over a heartthrob figure is a phenomenon that has taken a while – almost two decades, in fact – for me to fully appreciate. Even though my own teenage years contained sporadic and prolonged infatuations with particular artists and their outputs, these were built on foundations of what was to me groundbreaking musicianship, not through bleary-eyed desire.

All that changed when I found myself, perhaps foolishly, spending a night before a far-from-out-of-the-way spring coursework deadline at a LANY show. Smitten with ‘ILYSB’ after hearing Zane Lowe suffering from the same sentiment on Beats 1 the previous autumn, their night off from arena shows with Ellie Goulding and John Newman took them to Camden’s Assembly (then Barfly), where a quaint capacity crowd was treated to an intimate and sweaty performance of, at that stage, the band’s entire discography. As frontman Paul Klein spoke modestly about the band’s feeling of overwhelm by the love they were receiving through his matted mane of flowing locks, almost everyone hung off and echoed every one of his words, even though new single ‘WHERE THE HELL ARE MY FRIENDS’ was just three days old. Continue reading “Live review: LANY at Heaven, London”

Album review: Izzy Bizu – A Moment Of Madness

Although occasionally lacking in both clarity and lyrical depth, its jazzy flares and spritely voice form a thoroughly enjoyable set of tracks.

Originally published in The Edge

There’s something remarkably refreshing about a 22-year-old who is as comfortable orchestrally covering Edith Piaf records from 1957 as she is talking to interviewers about enjoying worm-laced tequila. Izzy Bizu’s sound is a gorgeous homage to that bygone era of soul, with backing tracks built for the roar of a big band with their precise jazzy flickers and sporadic bursts of substantial percussion. Even in the moments that feature utterly indecipherable vocals – whether through dropped syllables on ‘Naïve Soul’ and ‘What Makes You Happy’ or because, like ‘White Tiger,’ the sounds she’s making are nothing more than vague attempts at actual sentences – the package feels well-rounded and zesty. Continue reading “Album review: Izzy Bizu – A Moment Of Madness”