SINGLES BAR 87 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 87Based in Edmonton, Alberta, LILY MONAGHAN self-releases Introspection, an EP of bluesy folk that draws on such diverse influences as Taylor Swift, Feist, Florence Welch and the late Gord Downie, frontman with Canadian rock outfit The Tragically Hip. An acoustic post break-up number, the fingerpicked ‘Sleeping Alone’ nods to Swift as she sings “I’m not a drinker but pour me a stiff one / I’m stuck in the ringer and no money’s enough / To look a dead man in the eyes before shooting him down”, while ‘On Hold’ takes the pace down for a slow sway groove and a line in looking on the pessimistic  side  (“The bitter sweet taste of accepting your fate / Should be served with a side of lime / And welcome the sting that numbing the pain brings / Prepare to feel bad all the time”).  The opening ‘Let Me Kiss; you is a bluesier track that calls to mind Chicken Shack’s ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ while the vocally soaring ‘Security Blanket’ brings on the piano and rippling percussion for another number about love gone bad as it builds towards the climax. It closes with the more upbeat slow strum and walking beat drums of ‘Comes And Goes’ about accepting love’s often fleeting nature, showcasing the power of her vocals.

Alchemy, the new EP by WILL LAWTON AND THE ALCHEMISTS comes lavishly packaged as befits a record clearly designed to make a statement. Will is a music therapist by profession but the Alchemists have already released two full length albums. There is no chance of pigeon-holing them – drums and bass on the one hand; piano, guitar and tabla on the other – but with guest electric guitar and electronics added to the mix they sound like a rock band except when they don’t.

The opening track is the eight-minute ‘Daughter’, followed by the single, ‘Black Bricks’ with its refrain, “It’s a head fuck day”, and you might think you have a handle on them. Then comes ‘Cast Iron’ and immediately you’re back in the sixties. It would be wrong to make comparisons but cast your mind back to John Peel’s Perfumed Garden and smell the incense.

Based in LA, MEGAN BRICKWOOD self- releases her second EP, Fifth Mile, a folksy acoustic four track collection  that opens with the suitably rippling fingerpicked ‘Trinity River Blues’ which highlights her Nick Drake open tuning influences, followed by the rolling rhythms of  self-assertive kiss-off ‘You’ll Never Find A Girl Like Me’, the Mary Chapin Carpenter-coloured letter to her younger self ‘Hey Little Darling’  to not lose heart and the moody  piano-accompanied, rumbling percussion ethereal title track which harks to the vintage  Laurel Canyon days.

MARK T releases a rather jolly Rembetika-style bouzouki instrumental, ‘Easter Sunday’, as a single. It has certain feeling of spring about it and you can imagine the retsina flowing as the peasants dance. Well, it may have been like that a few hundred years ago and is now a cliché but that doesn’t stop the enjoyment.

Written about her sister but resonating with anyone who’s experienced the loss of a loved one, EMMA GEE FLOWERS releases ‘You Didn’t Mean To Leave’, Joy Li’s violin and viola adding a hymnal feel to proceedings with Tape Broz accompanying on piano, the melody and the emotion swelling as it gathers to a close, serving reminder to make the most of the time we have to share

‘Run’ is the new single – a new version of an old song, actually – by DAVID EDWARD BOOTH featuring Kelly Bayfield, Ian Stephenson and Ally McErlaine of Texas and Red Sky July. Ally makes his presence felt immediately with treated guitar on the intro. The song, about Booth’s feelings when his second child started school and the weight of responsibility that goes with it, comes from his forthcoming album, All My Days.

Dubliner MAURICE McGRATH offers up a perhaps little known treasure of Irish history with his self-released six-minute, piano and fiddle coloured slow-swaying ballad ‘King Of Mud Island’. Founded by three MacDonnell brothers who fled to Ballybough in Dublin from Ulster during the Ulster Plantations in 1605, the marshland became known as ‘Mud Island’, and, during the 18th century, it was a no go area largely populated smugglers and highway robbers  and even having its own king. Bram Stoker is said to have been inspired by a local graveyard known as the suicide plot where the dead were staked down and the area is also mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses.  The song tells of one of the MacDonnell descendants, “a rogue of a man” and a gambler “who lived by his wits on the poorest of land” before being captured by and then rescued from the bailiffs by his followers. The lyrics recall the legend of how, after being outbid in an auction for a house in Drumcondra, he and his Mud Islanders demolished it under cover of darkness and carried away the bricks.

ANDY WHITE AND TIM FINN get loud and political on their new single ‘The Happiness Index’. The track comes from their forthcoming album, AT, and was recorded in New Zealand and Australia. It’s a powerful piece with overtones of early Dylan but the vocals really should be higher in the mix. We await the album with keen anticipation.

Not quite so loud but definitely political, BEANS ON TOAST is ‘Against The War’. It’s clearly about the situation in Ukraine but, of course, it could be about any war, police action or invasion since 1945. For the most part it is performed on acoustic guitar over a deep bass drone but towards the end it explodes with a cacophony of noise that sounds not unlike an actual battlefield before, suddenly, peace descends. Rather more nuanced than the Whitfield-Strong Motown hit.

Singer/songwriter John Tedesco packs a lot into the story of ‘Mary Ann’, the first female bushranger and lover of the notorious Captain Thunderbolt, sung here by native Australian NOVAC BULL. Mary Ann Bugg was the daughter of a white convict and an Aborigine woman and survived many adventures, including three arrests before dying at the age of 68. As Johnny says it’s high time her story was told – told here in a piano led Americana (Australiana?) style. Very nice.

‘Busy Doing Nothing’ isn’t, fortunately, that gimmicky song from the 60s but the new single by Liverpool singer/songwriter EUAN BLACKMAN. It’s a dark moody song about a woman he needs so badly but “you fuck me up in the morning/you kill all my friends because you don’t want to see them again”. It’s very well done but the poor guy has problems.

Nice chunky acoustic guitar introduces ‘Strange Weather’, the new single from LUKE SITAL-SINGH in advance of the upcoming EP of the same title. It has a clever tune and interesting lyrics and a lot going on in the arrangement. It would be nice to think that this would be Luke’s breakthrough.

Irish musician and producer DAVID KITT releases a double A-side single, ‘Till The End’ and ‘Balances’. Both are unconventional featuring lots of percussion, drones, pulsing bass and some distorted guitar. Don’t be put off, though. The slow burning ‘Till The End’ develops into a beautiful song while ‘Balances’ provides a lively contrast. His new album, Idiot Check, is released next month.

As a taster for her upcoming album, Onliness, JOSIENNE CLARK releases ‘The Birds’. It’s a beautiful and beautifully arranged song about the onset of winter – and a sense of melancholy that goes further than that.