Category Archives: Tunes To Check Out

A Rather Laidback Review | The Calais Sessions

I was excited about ordering this CD. It combines two of the things I am very passionate about in my life: my love of music and the work I do with refugees in our local area. I’ve always enjoyed learning about other cultures and their varying traditions. So when I saw an advert asking me to purchase The Calais Sessions CD, I knew it was something that needed to be on my shelves.

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The album is a collection of songs featuring musicians who resided in the Calais Jungle. A makeshift studio was set up in the camp and an array of instruments were offered to the people. The website and album sleeve both promote this as the voices of those people behind the headlines. But it is also an expression of raw and pure emotion from those who have fled their homes because of traumas the majority of British folk can never truly understand.

My first time listening to the album was in the kitchen (a fine place to review an album), cooking up a fusion of Italian and Spanish. The first track was ideal for the job, as I needed to make a basic bread dough and knead for 5 minutes. On shuffle, the first song played was Deskovo Oro, an ideal 6 minutes and 11 seconds long. I finished kneading just in time for the song to change over.

The track was produced quickly, with all of the musicians involved being given a chance to express their skills and styles through their own adaptation of Blagoja Deskoski’s track of the same title. Lead by a Romanian violinist, there is a clear bass established through drums and other string instruments then accompany. It’s fast-paced and had me moving around the kitchen more than I would had I not been listening to the track. With no vocals, I wasn’t distracted and so focused entirely on the stunning sound.

Many of the songs are in a different language. The opening track to the album is called The Lost Singer, performed by four Syrians and dedicated – the CD sleeve has kindly translated the words – to ‘the Syrian martyrs’. La Llorana is a Spanish song, telling a truly sorrowful story. Ya Rab’oun was written by 21 Abdullah from Kuwait, where the main language is Arabic. Khandahar is sung in Farsi, though the original poem was written in English. Yesus and Hallelujah are both sung by singers of Ethiopian and Eritrean origin. The track Ismail is named after the artist, who was known as ‘the music man of the jungle’, who fled his country after being threatened by the Taliban who refused to let him perform.

University Story is a collaboration between an Iraqi rapper and two UK volunteers who have done a lot of work in the Jungle. It is a mixture of languages: I’m not sure whether the rap is done in Kurdish or Arabic – it doesn’t sound familiar to me at all, so I assume not Arabic. It’s a stunning song, with the English lyrics summarising the physical reaction to a love torn by distance.

Long Road has a traditional folk sound to it. It was produced by the team who ran The Calais Sessions, and is dedicated to all the musicians they’d discovered in the Jungle. It summarises to beautifully the natural association with all refugees “so far from home” and touches on the sentiment of those volunteers who can picture their home as the place they will return to, knowing that the people this track is aimed at cannot do the same.

It is the giggles at the end of Deskovo Oro and the cheers and whooping at the end of bonus track Every Heart That Loves which captures my heart. No matter how terrible the situation may be, music can always be a way to release emotion, share emotion and have voices heard. Even if you don’t understand the words, you cannot connect with the voice and the instruments and join with the story.

For me, the album is beauty. When listening to it is easy to forget that this beauty was created in a place symbolic of loss and devastation. It had me dancing around my kitchen and I have already grasped a couple of lyrics so that I am singing along.

All profits from the sale of this album go to Citizens UK. To get your own copy head over to http://www.thecalaissessions.com/buy-music

Top New Tunes of the Summer

I haven’t introduced you to some new tunes for a while, totally missing July in the whirlwind that the month was. So, here’s a slightly longer version of my ‘Top New Tunes’ looking at those artists who are releasing new material over the summer. Artists you may be checking out at the festivals, or ones who could get you in the right mood while packing your backpack.

First up is Leeds-based Masses with their new single ‘In Circles’. Having a countdown on Facebook, I found myself subconsciously anticipating this track, to which the video was unleashed on August 2nd.

Masses have a really enjoyable rock sound, and this track showcases the Cain Cookson’s charming voice. Soft at the beginning, within the chorus it picks up, making it ever more catchy.  It reminds me of the early Matchbox Twenty sound, a pure rock sound which captures emotion seemingly effortlessly.

Another catchy tune, this time from a Hull band and from a different genre. ‘Behind These Eyes’ is the first track to feature on Three Day Millionaires’ self-titled EP, released last month.

A punk rock band, they cross over into the metal sound with heavy ruthless vocals. I’m not usually one for scream-come-singing, but recently I’ve been increasingly intrigued by the metal genre. I dallied with it somewhat in my teenage years (I dated a guy in a death metal band and had an episode of listening to a lot of Children of Bodom). Now, I’m finding myself drawn to more and more local Metal bands.

This track features some very catchy parts – the parts you can make out on the first time of listening to it – as well as some parts where I imagine I’d be moving too much to sing along to anyway. I can certainly picture myself on the outskirts of a circle pit of true metal fans, enjoying this band, even if it’s not my usual choice of noise.

You can get your hands on their music via their Bandcamp or in the physical form at the Warren merchandise stall at local festivals.

A band I can’t get enough of is Storms from London, and they’ve recently released my favourite of their tracks. ‘Shame’ is a fantastic tune, which starts directly on a high. George Runciman takes you on a journey of vocals, introducing the title of the song as he screams over the guitars, but then softening for the verses. The chorus is sung loudly as the guitars pick up and create a fantastically loud noise.

This track just does everything for me – it’s rough, it’s quick and yet has slow moment. I probably won’t be seeing these guys over the summer (a shame in itself, as they are awesome live), but I will definitely be playing this track in preparation for a good night out – it’s a great get-in-the-mood track from a very talented and fun band.

You can get this track free from their website (stormsband.com) as well as from the usual means: ITunes, Amazon, Google Play and Spotify.

Back to Humberside, on the other side of the water, The Finest Hour have released their new single ‘The Scrapheap’, available to buy from their Bandcamp.

Energetic punk folk, this band hit the nail on the head every time. Delivering a softly sung, guitar-heavy track, ‘Scrapheap’ is a song which we can all relate to. I don’t have much to say about this track, as I think it speaks volumes itself. If you haven’t already check out Cleethorpes-based The Finest Hour, I urge you to do so at the next opportunity.

And finally back to Hull. You may have seen Breeze performing at Humber Street Sesh, all clad in white and performing this song along with a selection of their best tracks.

New song ‘Sam Wave’ features a chorus which you’ll find stuck in your head for hours after playing it, with a tune which will keep you upbeat. It’s got a more summery sound to most of their other tracks, contrasting with the deep sultry voice of Aron Gilbey.

And with the video filmed locally, you can see just how beautiful this part of the country really is, on those days when the sun decides to shine.

Tunes To Check Out

Let me start you off this month in my lovely home city of Hull. LIFE released their new EP I Knew I Was A Rat on Monday 11th May, and I’ve been listening to it ever since. I now own 3 copies of ‘Take Off With You’ as I had previously bought it as a single. Do I care? No. It simply means it tends to appear more often than any other song when playing all my tunes on random.

I actually featured the single ‘Go Go Go’ in my March Tunes To Check Out, the video (shot by ShootJMoore) has since been hosted by Vevo. But it is second track ‘All Your Friends’ which I am most enjoying. This track summarises the sound I associate with the band; Mez shouting out to the listeners as an introduction to the song, a clear beat from bassist Loz and drummer Rick, and some lovely guitar pieces from Mick (who wins me over every time I see them perform live). Their lyrics are fast-paced and laced with cultural references, from Breaking Bad to the Grapes Of Wrath. Their sound is furiously fun.

The next two suggestions are from bands I’ve seen sharing a stage with LIFE.

First all, Storms, who co-headlined with the band last year, and who I quickly bonded with. Now signed to MUK Records, they’ve cleansed themselves and started afresh with their new single ‘Girl’. I was saddened to see their tracks disappear from my Soundcloud stream, but immensely pleased to see them receiving significant media coverage with this track which holds onto their sound. (Too often a record label alters the sound of a band, cleaning it and stripping away all that makes it beautiful. Thank you MUK for that.)

It opens with a high-pitched guitar, the video introducing you to the protagonist who has an unhealthy interest in one specific girl. George Runciman’s vocals are gentle and yet strong, adding an additional layer which compliments the instruments. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to suggest that manic stalking is the way to get the girl, but it makes for a fun video.

My last suggestion is from Frankie and The Heartstrings’ new album Decency, which I have already pre-ordered on vinyl in huge anticipation and a moment of sheer joy when I spotted it on their website.

The video for forthcoming single ‘Think Yourself Lucky’ is immensely fun, even if it doesn’t really seem to make sense. Showing the band dressed like a 1950s rock band, lead singer Frankie bounces around before the musicians, dancing with balloons and a young gentleman (I want to say gentleman, anyway). Drummer Dave Harper flirts from behind his kit, while Michael Matthews, Michael McKnight and Ross Millard attempt synchronised guitar moves. If you’ve ever seen this band live, you’ll know that this is exactly what you can expect from the guys, perhaps without the synchronised movements from those wielding guitars.

I openly admit to having fallen completely head over heels (and every other euphemism for obsession and unashamed adoration) for Frankie and The Heartstrings. They’re fun, they’ve got a crisp and funky sound, and they never fail to put a smile on your face.

Thinking about it, these three bands would make a pretty decent line-up. Don’t ask me which one I’d stick in the headline spot though…