Dissecting Donegan – 1st XI Reviewed

My favourite albums all have a few things in common:

1. Great tracks – and no duds.

2. work as a coherent whole end-to-end.

3. include enough variety to keep you going (with softer and more upbeat numbers too).

4. Start in a way to draw you in and end with an epic.

5. Would sound awesome played live.

Those pressures don’t square with today’s world of online streaming and it’s therefore most encouraging to report on British band Donegan’s new album “1st XI”, a true tour de force of an album in the fullest sense of that phrase.

“Donegan” is an eponymous family band: songwriter Thomas sings and plays piano, organ, guitars and synths, with Emmet on guitar, mandolin and vocals and Martin on percussion. The new album and its singles prosper from collaboration with renowned producer Chris Coulter, who recently took Arcane Roots to no. 1 in the UK Indie charts and various other guest musicians credited.  Followers of the underground music scene will already have heard “Reminisce” and “Candles” and so will be aware of the broad array of musical influences and genres affecting this band’s music.  With melodies and harmonies dominating over bass, the album reflects songwriter Thomas’ classical training and passion for melodic rock music.  The variety of musical influences on display here is extraordinary: rock, indie, folk, pop, classical – albeit generally with a piano rock / alt rock vibe.  The album in part pitches up somewhere around where Radiohead left things around 1996 and in part somewhere near Billy Joel or Keane.

To kick things off, opening track “Requiem” is an orchestral film-score kind of piece, forewarning us – in this study of love – that “All must fall”.  From there, we move to a series of love songs.  Donegan’s acclaimed single “Reminisce” deals in the joyful sparks of first love.   This catchy, radio-friendly, synth-rock track is simultaneously uplifting, reflective and insistent.  “Around the World” is equally catchy, based around broken piano chords and a piercing lead guitar solo.  For the album, Coulter remixed Donegan’s debut single from a few years ago, “Waking”.  This synth dominated love-song wears its heart firmly on its sleeve – a more passionate and earnest exposition of true love in a happy couple would be hard to find – and may be too much for some.  Completing the love-song end of the album’s spectrum, “I wonder” may be its strongest track, a beautifully produced piece featuring more of folk musician Emmet Donegan’s influence than the others, being led by acoustic guitars, mandolin, harmonica and his backing vocals.

From there, things get darker.  “Democracy” pitches an anthem on the sad current state of politics, lamenting politicians, whether they stand for remain, leave, war, tax or change (“they’re all just after number one” … “didn’t want it, don’t support it”).  This is another classical-piece-turned-synth-rock, with interesting chord modulations and a heavy brass bass-line.  This, and the next track, “Television” are metaphors for argument – and add notable variety to the album. The latter is an outspoken critique of the media and another Coulter remix of a little-known previous Donegan b-side.  This is quite an audacious track: a waltz piece in three-time (quite unusual for a rock track now or ever) using church organ, strings, a Latin cow bell and bongos, without an electric guitar in sight.  And yet, it blew me away as a piece of rock music.

From there, the album turns darker. “Falling” is a synth-dominated break-up song, featuring some impressive chord combinations, key modulations and instrumentation.  “Human Behaviour” would sit easily on Blur’s Parklife – satirising a desperado chatting up women in a bar.  This story leads into “Candles”, the second single from this album.  This dark song tells the story of a difficult conversation after the night out depicted in the previous track, addressing darker themes such as anguish, conflict and regret, with an engaging narrative and symbolism built alongside yearning melodies.  Finally, “The End” terminates things quite appropriately with a bombastic rock epic, featuring no less than three simultaneous lead guitar lines, plus bass and two rhythm guitars, as well as a brass section.  This reflective break up song is quite more upbeat than “Candles”, reminding us that it is better to have loved and lost, than not to have loved at all.

So what did I not like?  Well, the concentration of three love songs at the front-end may be a bit too much for some.  And the better tracks are at the end meaning that some might not get there.  Secondly, whilst lead singer and songwriter Thomas Donegan’s voice is adequate in terms of having a decent range and having an interesting husky quality to it, it does not compare to some of the great vocal talents that dominate music charts today – and in the post-X Factor world generally – in lacking a bit of depth or feeling and its somewhat nasal quality.  This is counter-balanced by musical arrangements which activate all the senses and hit all the wavelengths: like the album’s whole tenet, this is something of a throw-back to times when the music came first and the personalities were secondary.

All in all, this album presents a quite extraordinary musical and narrative journey.  Turning to my criteria for a great album: 1. These are 11 great tracks – no duds in sight.  2. They tell an interesting coherent story. A concept album studying love sounds fairly banal and unoriginal even, but this deals in experiences of a whole adult lifetime from the good to the bad in a quite engaging way.  3. Musical variety – be it instruments, genre variation, key modulations, track length, song structure – is extraordinary if not unprecedented – and keeps you wanting to hear the next track without the album ever verging near disinteresting experimentalism.  4. It hooks you in and sends you off: this starts with a film score and ends with a rock anthem featuring one of the best guitar solos I’ve heard. 5. I’d really like to hear these guys live.  So, “1st XI” ticks all these boxes for a great album and some.

This album’s tracks were composed over more than 20 years.  It’s been a long gestation period, but it’s really been worth the wait!

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/1st-xi/1350991442

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0CDlwG8LzNxLQAuJcgSbhj

Website: https://donegan-music.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/donegan_music

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All Hail-er Nele Needs a Holiday!

After enthralling the European mainland, Nele Needs a Holiday are finally releasing their album, Love Yeah, in March. Rolling up to join the likes of Amanda Palmer and Adam Green, Nele’s (not pronounced Nelly but Nailer) heart is in her lyrics, the kind of involved, introspective observations which feel like diary posts as much song lyrics. As such, her wry observations of life and, specifically on this album, love, are not the kind of processed, cliches you’ll find in a zillion other songs but instead darkly comic, personal and sometimes acerbic.

Marrying up with her sound, Nele Needs a Holiday have a touring band of 7 female musicians, the whole cast appearing in matching costumes – this is entirely in keeping with their slightly cabaret, strangely English image (somewhere between the Bonzos and Divine Comedy), which is all the more confusing given they’re from Belgium.

Lead track, ‘We’ll See’, is, to throw a spanner in the works, is a far more poignant, reflective piece, with a nod towards soul as well as classical female singer-songwriters. Equally impressive is Nele’s expressive voice which is completely huggable and lovely. Check out the track above and look out for the album, a classic in the making.

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/1BCRY2szkW4oM4aOFSRDLQ

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/NNAHoliday

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/NeleNeedsAHoliday

Twitter: @NNAHoliday

Instagram: neleneedsaholiday

Website: www.neleneedsaholiday.com

OLISHA NAIKER: MEET THE ARTIST WHO SANG ‘STRANGERS’

Creating classic pop songs for a generation and bored with manufactured bands, Olisha Naiker has taken things into her own hands as she debuts her new single ‘Strangers’.

Olisha Naiker debuted her new single ‘Strangers’ and wants the world to hear her beautiful talent.

South African and having an Indian heritage, Olisha, is certain she has every control over every element of her music from writing to performance to production.

‘Strangers’, her new debut single, has a cool, atmospheric video to accompany it, Olisha wants to influence her audience with her strong alluring voice.

Olisha has added, “I want people to focus on the song and the message, the message of trying to let someone go who is now a stranger to you.”

You can watch the video to ‘Stranger’ here:

She has no other hobby other than music, for her, music is a way of life and she wants to share her wonderful talent with everyone!

Olisha’s music is a combination of today’s modern pop with influences from artist such as Michael Jackson and Jay Sean.

You can follow/ here more about Olisha:

http://www.facebook.com/olishanaicker

http://www.twitter.com/olishanaicker

http://www.instagram.com/olishanaicker

http://www.olishanaicker.com

 

 

 

Dance, Dance To The Sounds Of The 80s!

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Adonis had me from the moment My Different Lover first note reached my ears. Right from the get go, it’s an upbeat, joyous throwback to the glory days of pop in the 1980s, and any fans of Michael Jackson should check it out right away. It’s all there and as satisfying as ever, from gated reverbs to warm analogue synths, Adonis’s musical knowledge and ability is clear and undeniable.

Listen to My Different Lover here: https://www.reverbnation.com/adonis83

My Different Lover focuses on the spiritual love between two people, rather than lust. Taking influence from classic Motown and soul, the exhilarating production is enlivened by Adonis’ bass playing and multi-layered keyboards and vocals.

Adonis is not only a songwriter though and his experience with music is clear when listening to his work. Over the years he has worked as a co-writer, a producer and an arranger and it is now that all this has come together to create something that is truly special.

 

 

Neethusha Finds Her Way

Neethusha is a versatile artist/singer-songwriter, who can sing anything from ballads to rock music, singing what she likes singing:

“I write sweet, happy songs when I am happy, sad songs when I am sad, and if I want to make you dance I will compose an EDM track”

This diverse and versatile attitude is what has lead to her new single ‘Why Did I Lose You’.

Why Did I Lose you can be heard here:

The beautifully romantic and sad ballad displays her influence from acts such as Shania Twain and Celine Dion. The song is dedicated to all those who have lost someone, “Sometimes life brings you the most wonderful people into your life, and just when your heart has grown immensly fond of them, rips them away from you. The only option we have, is to struggle, accept the pain and move on.” The emotional message behind the song can be clearly seen through the lyrics and heard by the expressive emotion in her voice.

Neethushas’s Indian upbringing and heritage could have got in her way, but her determination, drive and ‘voice in her head’, telling her not to back down, kept her going and got her to where she is today. And we couldn’t be happier.

Modiwo’s Guide to Music, Life and Beyond

Confounding expectations, Modiwo have emerged from the shadows of the Carpathian Mountains to become one of the country’s breakout musical success stories, whilst also giving their time to support charity projects around the world. Initially forming in order to provide entertainment for local orphanages and retirement projects, demand for the band’s music grew to such a scale that they agreed to become a band in their own right.

With their diverse backgrounds from Romania, Ukraine, Moldova and Hungary, their completely unique and captivating dream-like pop sound is a clear example of the band working together in harmony to create a blissfully uplifting track that fills the listener with positivity and warmth.

The video to Never Give Up can be watched here:

After taking over their home countries with their music, they have also started getting involved with the charity Fruit Fusion, which offers audiences attending gigs to pay with fruit instead of money, which then gets donated to local orphanages, in conjunction with The Bureau of Children’s’ Rights Protection. An average show can deliver up to 700kg of fruit to those most deserving. Modiwo carry this living ethos through to their own lifestyles and into their music, using their music as a form of relaxation therapy. Their positive and uplifting vibes can be clearly felt through their new track.

Angus & Julia Stone and their SNOW in the middle of summer.

This is not a drill! Snow alert! And yes, I am aware that we are just coming into August, it’s still summer but it’s true – it’s time for some SNOW. But don’t worry, there is no actual cold substance involved in this! It’s a name of a brand new single performed by Australian siblings  – Angus & Julia Stone.

Angus and Julia, born and raised on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, grew up around musical talent, their parents, who taught them music at home, used to have their own folk band.

 Both siblings play instruments and both are amazing song writers, they combined their incredible talents in  2006.Their success came quickly because of the magic of their music. The duo became famous worldwide, and many publishing companies and agencies showed interest in the brother-sister indie folk group.
So far, they’ve released three studio albums and won several ARIA Awards, including Album Of The Year.
Now, after a long break, they are coming back with a fresh album, also called Snow. The forthcoming album will be out later this year, on the 15th of September.
The leading single of the album is such a dreamy track but to be honest, it doesn’t have a lot to do with the actual snow apart from one line “ Blanket on my back, I’m cold, I’m cold again. Smile in the snow, tryna find something to say”. Well that… and if you fancy being out in the snow while you are listening to it, but I don’t think this can happen anytime soon!
The song seems to be about a relationship, or what is left of it. The ending is coming and the girl is wondering why the person won’t stay.
The duo’s harmony and the technique of delivering are superb, and their voices absolutely exquisite!
“Snow” makes you feel calm and you can almost imagine yourself facing the sun, wind in your hair and the slight curve of your smile…. Do yourself a favour and listen to this lovely song!
You can also find Angus & Julia here:
Let me know in the comment section if you’ve heard about this Aussie duo before, and how you like their song! Also, would you like to see a review of their album once it’s out? Share your thoughts!
Until next time! x