Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘new music’

Wow, time flies when you’re having fun.

Or working like a dog.

Whichever.

In any case, something more like normal service should be resumed now. After a crazy January of working 10 hour days between the university job and singing tuition, things have now settled down slightly with a reduction in hours to four days a week instead of five. I’m still busy, but I can now enjoy luxuries like eating and sleeping.

Oh, and taking part in the yearly write-fest that is February Album Writing Month. That too. 😉

So far, progress has been good, I think. A week in, I’m bang on target with four songs recorded and up on the site and several on the go. My biggest challenge is keeping up with the listening and commenting – the site is so much bigger this year than previous ones, so it can feel pretty overwhelming staying on top of everything. As always though it’s a fantastic experience and a strong and positive community.

I usually like to blog about FAWM and put up posts highlighting some of my favourite listens. I’m going to open with a post about what I’ve been doing, and then post again later in the week when I’ve narrowed down five or so recommendations – the quality this year is outstanding, which is great but makes finding five or so favourites actually pretty hard!

So my four so far (in order of posting and with the disclaimer that these are rough demos with some errors and glitches!):

Shadows on the Run

January was a horrible struggle this year, as it is for many of us, which is what inspired this one.

I know it’s not always easy
Life can leave you hollow inside
Striped down and defenceless
On a hellish ride

Too many corners and angles
The path ahead obscure and unknown
But nothing is forever
And you’re not alone

CHORUS
See the shadows on the run
In the path of something better coming true
Winter’s time is almost done
And the light is pushing through
See the shadows on the run
See the future stretching out before you
In the golden summer sun
There’ll be nothing you can’t do

I know you’ve been cold in the darkness
Chilled by every little mistake
Sometimes it feels like there’s nothing
More you can take

The wind is so bitter, the land is so hard
Stagnation feels so easy to do
But nothing is forever
And we’ll see it through

CHORUS
See the shadows on the run
In the path of something better coming true
Winter’s time is almost done
And the light is pushing through
See the shadows on the run
See the future stretching out before you
In the golden summer sun
There’ll be nothing you can’t do

Rubbish Fairy Tale

A favourite of mine and one that will be on set lists for live gigs from now on, this is a song about expectations and how reality so rarely matches up.

 

I was looking for a pot of gold
Had to settle for a pin
I dreamt of a knight in armour bold
Got a boy made out of tin

Ooh, what a rubbish fairy tale
Ooh, what a rubbish fairy tale

This “happy-ever-after” thing
Is so last hundred years
The poisoned apple book of lies
Makes a mockery of tears

Ooh, what a rubbish fairy tale
Ooh, what a rubbish fairy tale

I won’t guess your name
And I won’t let down my hair
I’ve kissed a thousand frogs and they’re all still there
You can keep your slipper
You can keep your throne
All I want is a good book and a night at home

Ooh, what a rubbish fairy tale
Ooh, what a rubbish fairy tale
Ooh, what a rubbish fairy tale
Ooh, what a rubbish fairy tale

Battlefield

This was written as part of a song skirmish. Song skirmishes are one of my favourite things about FAWM. Someone picks a title, and everyone who takes part has one hour to write a song with that title. Then they’re shared. It consistently amazes me how differently people interpret the titles. This was my offering.

Here on the battlefield we will take a stand
In the killing fields our test is close at hand
We won’t be bound, we won’t fear death
We’ll hold our ground until the final breath

Those who went before us
Stained the good earth with their blood
And we who follow after
Feel their heartbeats in the mud
The hounds of war are coming
Howling death, despair and rage
But our courage will sustain us as we meet them

Here on the battlefield we will take a stand
In the killing fields our test is close at hand
We won’t be bound, we won’t fear death
We’ll hold our ground until the final breath

There’s no honour in this bloodshed
But some things must be done
As we tumble rank and file
To never see the sun
Some may call us martyrs
And some may call us fools
But to bow before the enemy is foolish too

Here on the battlefield we will take a stand
In the killing fields our test is close at hand
We won’t be bound, we won’t fear death
We’ll hold our ground until the final breath

Impossible Windmills

This is the saddest one this year and carries a trigger warning because of the content of the lyrics (mental health/depression). I’d like to re-record the vocals at some point. Gemma helped out with the lyrics on the last verse 🙂

A note on the mirror, written in steam
I can see clearly, through the glass nearly
A chink in your armour, patched up with glue
A smile sad as oceans, as you go through the motions

You’re tilting again at impossible windmills
I’m helpless again as you fall to the night

A page in your diary, a hole in your heart
I understand partly, through the glass darkly
A word left unspoken, a thorn in your mind
You’re turning away now, you’ve nothing to say

You’re tilting again at impossible windmills
I’m helpless again as you fall to the night

You’re tilting again at impossible windmills
I’m helpless again as you fall to the night
You’re tilting again at impossible windmills
I’m helpless again as you fall to the night

A note on the mirror
Written in steam

 So there you are, February so far. I have several gigs coming up in March and April which I’ll be writing about soon, and at least two of these stand a very good chance of being added to my live repertoire.
If you want to follow my progress on FAWM, head to the FAWM website  🙂 Or you could sign up and take part if you feel so inclined, it’s not too late!

Read Full Post »

I’ve been terrible at posting on time, haven’t I? I debated spending tonight on the naughty step but then I thought that would only make my post later, so here it is, an update on what I have been up to, since I haven’t updated things in a little while.

1. The Day Job.

I’ve just finished a five week assignment temping at the University. Well, technically I finish tomorrow, because of item number 2 on my list, Being Ill, but in any case, it’s about to be over. I’m still looking for something in that sort of area for three days a week on a more permanent basis, so keep your digits crossed. A regular income would make the whole making music thing so much easier!

2. Being Ill.

Oh yes, dear friends, if it’s circulating, I’ve picked it up. The University is currently infested with Freshers, with all their germs and whatnot, and I seem to have caught anything and everything going. The latest varient has been an exciting excursion into the contents of my sinuses. I’ll not say any more than that. Needless to say, I think I’m buggered when Ebola makes landfall, as it’s certain to do (the Daily Mail said so, it’s going to be brought by Giant Muslim Spiders in Burqas And Their Lesbian Friends or something…)

3. Recording My Next Release.

If you’ve been waiting for the long-promised electronica EP/LP Quantum Ghostlands, this is news you’ll want to hear. I’m in the process of putting it all together. It could still take months, but at this stage it’s months rather than years. Why has it taken me so long? Well, a combination of factors, really. Firstly, electronica takes me longer to write, much longer in fact, than acoustic piano tracks do. Secondly, I’ve been scared. I have only just learned how to mix songs that have only a few tracks (some piano, some vocals, maybe a bit of bass and some harmonies) so mixing something with 30-50 tracks is daunting to say the least. And thirdly, I wanted to master an easier release before I did an electronica release. Mastering Tales From The Undertow was really REALLY good for me, because it taught me a load about how to do it.

Like Tales… Quantum Ghostlands is coming out on a budget, but I hope that won’t matter too much. I’ll probably get a very limited CD run, and I suspect I’ll do a pre-order for that. They won’t be glass masters, because I can’t justify getting 500 made, but I’ll look at doing 100 or so. These will be very limited edition.

So here’s a sneak preview. These are not finished or mixed properly yet, but these are some of the things I’ve been writing/remixing for the release 🙂 (plus I like playing with crossfade….)

Before I go, one of my friends suggested that I write about independent Rap artists from southern USA. So. Check out my buddy G Slade, seen here in his natural environment on Bandcamp…  I think he’s awesome 🙂 That’s all for this week. Take care out there!

Read Full Post »

Today has been such a long Monday. So long. So very long.

The reason is quite exciting though. No, not the day job. That’s not exciting, although it allows me to spend lunchtime in the company of a handful of the craziest and loveliest people I know geeking out over movies, t-shirts and baby animals. No. The exciting reason is that I came home and did Things To Prepare For The EP Release.

Yes.

This Friday, 25th July, Tales from the Undertow will be available on Bandcamp to buy as a digital release. 6 tracks, lovingly handcrafted, mixed and mastered by yours truly, with a little help from friends heckling from the cheap seats. There will, as a result, be an extra post on Friday with a link to the EP. One of the jobs I have been working on tonight is the final mix and masters of all of the tracks. This is having to be done around my aforementioned day job and also aikido training, so I hope you’ll forgive my laxness in producing an essay this evening.

The other thing I did was to rehearse a live set, because coincidentally and marvellously, I am headlining at the Shhhh! Acoustic Evening at the Black Swan on Friday 25th July.

It’s an important date. Put in in your calendar. Write it on the back of your hand. Set your phone to play Ode to Joy.

Friday 25th July. Tales from the Undertow release day and gig!

Playing at the Rook and Gaskill. Photo courtesy of Vinnie Whitehead.

Playing at the Rook and Gaskill. Photo courtesy of Vinnie Whitehead.

Read Full Post »

Yes, yes, just call me Tardy McTardypants. I came home from work yesterday and fell into a tired, headachy heap under the duvet, surfacing several hours later only for food and the final episode of Orange is the New Black.

Anyway.

I’ve been working on the EP and it’s nearing completion. Five out of six songs are basically done and the sixth now has lyrics, I just need a window of time large enough to do the recording which is unlikely to happen before the weekend.

As I was finishing off Leave a Light On recently I was thinking about how it has evolved, which I thought I’d talk about here.

Leave a Light On started as a track written for February Album Writing Month this year. You can listen to the original incarnation here.

The original demo has only piano, vocals and harmonies in it. I double-tracked the vocals on the chorus to give it more impact, and wrote in some harmonies to add interest, but ultimately kept it simple, and as a demo, it more than did the trick as a way of testing out the song idea.

I thought about doing a neater version of that for the EP, but it didn’t feel like I was challenging myself particularly. In terms of the EP, I decided early on that I wanted to try to achieve a more raw, live sound. I wanted to feel more exposed as a musician, to stop hiding behind effects and piles of harmonies and produce something more meaningful and real. Sometimes it’s felt to me like I use those things as a safety net, and I wanted to remove that protection.

That’s not to say there aren’t harmonies anywhere on Tales from the Undertow, just that they’re used with more restraint than on previous releases, I’ve tried to return to basics and keep my vocals as the central focus. My voice is, after all, my primary instrument. As an example of how strongly I feel about this, Eyes Like Summer, another track off of Tales… hasn’t been re-recorded in any way. The original demo worked so well that I have kept it, in its raw form, the only thing I have done is mastered it.

Back to Leave a Light On, or LALO as I’m fond of calling it… The second version to emerge was what I have been jokingly calling the “No Frills” mix. It was recorded live – with piano and vocals recorded simultaneously, in one take. No harmonies, no extra instrumentation, just me and the piano. You can have a listen to that version here: Leave a Light On (No Frills Mix)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like it. But it’s intended to be the opening track on the EP and it just felt like it wasn’t meaty enough as an opener. I want something that thunders through the listener and sets the tone for the rest of the EP.

So, this is the final version, the one that will open the EP:

 

I could hear, in my head, the build up on that last repeat of the chorus, the drum particularly. I’m not a fan of Logic’s strings, alas, they’re the only ones I have, but buried under vocals as a sound bed they do work, and their shortcomings as synth strings are much less obvious. Because I was using orchestra instruments, I decided that an orchestral drum was the best type to use, and I layered two, with slightly different timbres, to give the drum some texture. Ultimately I wanted it to pulse under the rest of the music. I could, I realise, have side-chained it, to make it more obvious and punchy, but actually, I like that it’s messy, it sounds more like the vocals are being shrieked over the top, which is right for the feeling of the song. And for the first time ever in my song-writing career, it sounds EXACTLY like what I could hear in my head.

Something I’m learning as I work through these is that it’s good to take an established track and rework it a few times. I’m preaching to the choir here, I’m sure. This is probably not really news to any established musicians out there. But no-one gives you a guidebook when you start out, and sometimes one take/version is THE take/version. What I’m learning is that if it’s not feeling right, it might not be the song, it might be the arrangement. More importantly, having more than one version is fun. I’m already planning a b-side remix EP to accompany Tales…

So there you have it. Some thoughts as I’ve been working my way through the EP 🙂 Have a lovely week!

 

Read Full Post »

Hello, hello! Firstly I must apologise, because I did something totally shocking last Thursday – I failed to blog at all. Not even an apologetic animation from Simon’s Cat to make up for it.

In my defence, on Thursday, I had 7 out of 14 songs up for FAWM, leaving me 7 to do in just over 24 hours in order to complete the challenge. I’d also had some other bad news and was in the process of many long and complicated phone calls to try to sort things out. In short, life took a bit of a wonky turn down the side streets of “oh crap!” and I had to stop and deal with it all.

Things were back on a more even keel Friday afternoon, and I started to tackle the seven songs. The FAWM site doesn’t officially close to submissions until mid-day on the 1st of March, but my rule every year is that all fourteen have to be written between midnight on the 1st February UK time and midnight 1st March, so I had to be done Friday midnight for it to count for me. I also wanted to have as many as possible with demos. Writing this many songs in what turned out to be a ten hour period is what’s known by FAWMers as a “feast”, so, Friday’s feast went a bit like this:

Song 8 – Fearless

The first one up on Friday, posted at about 4:30-5pm (I forget – the day passed in such a blur once I got started!), was a song about the emotional and physical challenge that was Trailtrekker. I already had a fairly good idea about the piano part –  it was something that I’d been kicking around all month. Something about the electric piano sound I’d used was making me think of dark hills for some reason and one thing led to another. I called it Fearless. Like all of the songs posted on Friday, it was essentially one take – no redos on vocals or pianos, and given the short space of time, nothing was terribly well rehearsed, (but don’t let that put you off any of the songs!).

Song 9 – Coffee and Conversation

About an hour later, Coffee and Conversation went up. This one didn’t take too long because I’d already drafted both the lyrics and the piano backing, so I just needed to tie it together and record it. I think it’s an ok song, it’s not one of my favourites, but we’ll see what happens later this month when I go back over these. Another one take wonder – like just about everything done Friday! The chorus is too slow to my mind, I’d used a metronome and recorded the piano independently of the vocals which meant it didn’t flow as well as I wanted it to, but that’s nothing rehearsal and re-recording won’t fix. I prefer recording vocals and piano together but that needs more muscle memory, which means rehearsal, and I just didn’t have the time!

Song 10 – Being Gay Makes It Rain

One of my absolute favourites this FAWM, the concept had been rattling around since the first week of FAWM, but I was a little intimidated because what I could hear in my head and what I felt I could reasonable produce with just me and a piano and some synths wasn’t really matching up. I still want a massive gospel choir to kick in on the chorus. In fact, what I really, really want is to see this as a musical theatre number. With dancing, and flamboyance, and pretty fabrics, damnit! Instead, it was me and a piano against the ticking clock. But close your eyes and listen for the gospel choir. They’re there in spirit. I had fun recording this, especially the ending 🙂

Song 11 – Eyes Like Summer

Written for my long-suffering better half, the piano part on this took me by surprise. I wanted to write something beautiful, mellow and expressive, and I struggled, as I often do, with finding lyrics that weren’t too twee. I hope I succeeded. I have some fondness for this one, not sure if it’ll ever make an album, but it’s got a lot of potential, I think.

Song 12 – Go **** Yourself

After a break for some dinner, I cracked on with this one. I had some help from friends on Facebook with the lyrics, again, it had been a concept that I’d been letting trundle about in my hindbrain for a while, and it was cemented by unpleasant events earlier in the week, so I asked Facebook friends to brainstorm other ways of effectively telling someone to cock off. I didn’t actually want to write an overtly offensive song, I thought it would be much more effective to write something that seethed, but very politely. Despite the NSFW warning, it probably is, really. Whether you think “go blow a goat” is too filthy for young children to hear is a matter of preference and morality, I think, but it really doesn’t get any worse than that, and the f-word, although implied very strongly, is never actually used. The piano was the hardest part of writing and recording this and as a result, I definitely want to re-visit it this month and fix it.

Song 13 – Darkest Timeline

It’s rather appropriate that this is song 13, as anyone who has watched Community will probably agree. This was a co-write with my better half, she wrote the lyrics and I wrote and performed the music. I use “performed” loosely at this point. It was 11pm Friday night and I was seriously up against the clock. This is officially the fastest piece of electronica writing I have ever done. It took 20 minutes. I already had the bassline, thank goodness, so I added a basic drum placeholder, an intro, and some seriously warped vocals. And then uploaded it. The base idea is there though, and again I think this could potentially be a strong track, once I’ve done some serious work on it. I do mean serious.

Song 14 – Here All Along

So I had a little over half an hour left at this point and no idea what on earth my final song was going to be about. I do like writing a-capella songs, so I thought maybe that would be a fun way to finish FAWM, but in the time I had, it couldn’t be anything too intricate. So I started scribbling lyrics about, well, writing. The first verse still feels a little clunky to me, but it works well enough and I can always revise it later. Ran a melody a few times, then hit record. I got the lyrics posted at 5 to midnight, and I finished recording at midnight on the dot, the whole thing plus demo was live on the site by 5 past, but that was fine as the writing and recording had been finished within the time limit.

And then I went and poured myself a large serving of alcohol. Yes indeed. I won FAWM. Fourteen songs with thirteen demos in 28 days.

I should probably explain the lack of a demo for Ode to Housework. It being a comedy track, the piano is fast, twinkly, and technically a total pig to play. Because I couldn’t play it well enough to get a demo down, I haven’t done it yet. I will never understand my propensity for writing things I can’t actually play yet. I do plan to get a demo up before the end of March, and I’ll certainly yet you know when it’s live 🙂

Overall, FAWM was a total blast this year, even around stressful life events and all that jazz. Gemma and I were even lucky enough to get one of our co-writes featured on the final FAWMcast (a regular podcast which ran all month showcasing tracks people had written). So if you are interested and short of time, Clockwork Ballerina  was played an hour (1:00:40ish) into this:

If you aren’t short of time, the whole show is, of course, awesome and worth checking out, the hosts review each track on air and the tracks are handpicked for their very awesomeness 🙂

Now I’ve waffled at you all to death, I shall leave you until Thursday 😉 . Have a fantastic week out there!

FAWM writing is over, but FAWM listening has begun. There are 9894 songs on the site, so it’s well worth having a look! http://fawm.org/songs/

Read Full Post »

Welcome back, lovely people, to another Monday post about the joyous things I’ve been discovering on FAWM, or February Album Month. My own progress is moving slowly, with 4 out of 14 songs posted, another 2 in the pipeline in a nearly finished state, and then several lyrical and musical snippets waiting to be transformed.

The opener for this week is the unusual and offbeat Alfred, Apparently, by Fallsastar. It was tagged as “steampunk” and “Jazzish” so I felt compelled to take a listen and I’m so glad I did. This glitchy, wonky creation does indeed immediately transport the listener to dark victoriana alleyways in an industrial district. This is an all percussive wonder that I highly recommend taking a chance on.

Next up, one of my close neighbours in sunny Yorkshire, Isaac Lister, with his offering, Drink the Decency Down. Reminding me by turns of the Beautiful South blended with Billy Joel, this carries a haunting, catchy melody and bittersweet lyrics. The production is solid, and this is a strong, well put-together track. For those in York, Isaac Lister also runs a fabulous open mic night every Monday at the Rose and Crown on Lawrence Street. Check it out sometime.

For a more mellow, folky history lesson, check out Charleroi by Jcuempire. A sparkling, beautifully put together performance with solid instrumentation and a gorgeous melody. This is his first outing this FAWM and I hope to see more.

And now for something completely different… Zombie Morris Dancers, by WobbieWobbit. There has always been a tradition, a noble one in my opinion, of having at least one zombie song in FAWM, and this one is a cracker. A shambolic, gory, cerebral mess of a song. It’s superb. The horns! The accordion! The lyrics (“Shuffle to the left! Stagger to the right!”) If you only listen to one song I have recommended in this post, make it this one. I promise you won’t regret it.

Finally, in the lyrics only section, the marvellously evocative The Last Leaf, by Stephen Wordsmith. This is glorious. It’s rare to find lyrics only posts that straddle poetry and lyrics so well, but this does both, it is wonderful, haunting and engaging to read, and, set to music, can only be made even more beautiful.

I shall leave you all now. I have an early start with work in the morning after a very busy day today, and I want to listen to Zombie Morris Dancers one more time before bed…

Brains….!

 

 

Read Full Post »