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

 

 

 

Lawrence Preston Has Got ‘Something For You’ In Brand New Song

 

Lawrence Preston is back, even bigger and better than ever. Make way for an artist who knows the business, and who can provide some of the smoothest tunes going.

Lawrence Preston’s impeccable song-writing is partnered with his extraordinary talents as a performer, bass player and producer; culminating in a beautifully arranged single ‘Something For You’, which has proven that age is no factor when song writing is involved.

Lawrence was born in the San Francisco bay area, where he was first introduced to music through his grandfather Gospel, of which his parents were are part of. They were labelled as ‘The Sensational Travelers’, and as Lawrence was gaining a keen interest for music, he asked if he could join, at the early age of 5 years old!

 

 

After many years of playing live, including being bass player in Dorothy Morrison’s gospel band, he kept on exploring his talent, all while founding his independent record label, and releasing his first full-length album, Lawrence was definitely heavily active during this time.

Now ready to show audiences the smoothest, most sincere side of himself, he is sure to be a name not to miss.

 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@law_preston
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lawrence.preston.37

Julia Mascetti – An Intelligently Dark Lullaby

Julia_Greenwich6.jpg

It’s not often that a collection of songs captures the imagination in a way that is both innovative, and steeped in history, but this is exactly what Julia Mascetti has achieved with her new EP – In Distance, Everything is Poetry.

Growing up in the UK, Julia was raised on a solid diet of English folk music and storytelling, but took to the harp after relocating to Tokyo to live with her boyfriend. It was at this point that her new passion for the harp was born, and inevitably, the cross pollination of her influences began.

Her lead track In Bloom is a haunting, crawling mish-mash of sound and emotion, driven by a dreamlike, picked harp that weaves in and out of subtle, tasteful sonic details that decorate the production of the track. It is this attention to detail that gives the track its brooding, dream like atmosphere, providing the perfect platform for Julia’s storytelling to really shine.

If you’re a fan of Joanna Newsom, Nick Cave or Kate Bush, Julia’s new EP will not disappoint. Check out a live version of In Bloom here and be sure to pick up In Distance, Everything is Poetry on the 10th of November!

 

https://www.youtube.com/juliamascetti

https://www.facebook.com/juliamascetti

https://www.instagram.com/juliamascetti

https://tokyoharp.blog

 

Souli Roots to save the world!

You may remember Souli Roots from her brief stint on X factor back in 2013 or from her appearance at Wembley’s SSE Arena. How she has developed as an artist since then is something to behold.

‘World Peace Expression’ is the follow up after the success of her drum and bass inspired debut This is the place’ . It’s obvious from the very start of the track how much Souli Roots has developed as an artist, as she brings in tribal African drums layered with psychedelic instrumentation.  Her powerful vocals echo over the track as she calls for the next generation to ‘clean up this mess’.

Take a listen here: https://soundcloud.com/souliroots/world-peace-expression-available-now

Follow Souli Roots:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/souli.roots.1
Twitter: https://twitter.com/souliroots
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/souliroots34/
Website: www.souliroots.co.uk

Lady Geraldine: Jeweller By Day, Singer/Songwriter By Night

Running a fully-fledged business as a jewellery designer can seem like it would take up a large portion of time, but musician and singer/songwriter Lady Geraldine, is proving to all of us that you can do this as well as record and write your own songs.

Lady Geraldine’s life experiences are far from lacking in vibrancy and range. After being born in England, she has travelled and has resided in places such as North Africa and South America. However, she is now settling in Edinburgh, home to the fringe, one of the worlds most popular and renowned festivals. This has helped Lady Geraldine gain a extravagant and unique creative drive, which shows through her many forms of work, whether it be jewellery, oil paintings or music, she is always busy working on something.

She is now set to release album ‘Little Miss Blue’, which a compilation of all original songs, which she has recorded with extremely talented session musicians from Scotland, and has had help from Lawrence Riva who has engineered and produced tracks for the likes of ‘Big Country’, ‘Wet Wet Wet’ and ‘Bay City Rollers’

Website:  www.aero-records.com