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Newness for your ears: Blood, Lianne La Havas

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Cover artwork for Blood

Lianne La Havas is a singer I absolutely love. With that disclaimer out of the way, please don’t expect this write up to be highly objective. When I first listened to the British singer’s work, I was immediately touched by her voice, her lyrics, and the music. The combination of those three elements works like magic, as was exemplified in her debut album, the excellent Is Your Love Big Enough?. After seeing the lovely lady on stage a few years ago, I was further convinced of my musical infatuation. In case you missed it, read my review of Lianne La Havas’ concert at Espace Julien in Marseille. Now, with all that said, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a slight concern before listening to her brand-new album, Blood. Because you see, Lianne has come a long way in the past few years, signed with a major label, and became somewhat of a “big name”, with a growing fan base. All this has the potential to change a young artist for the worst. However, as soon as I listened to the first singles before the release of her second full-length album, and watched the mesmerising videos for Unstoppable and What You Don’t Do, I was reassured that the Lianne La Havas I grew to love was still here, with a twist. More mature, more confident, more sensual, she was a sight to behold. A little while passed between the moment I saw the videos and the day the album was released. On that day, July 31st, I bought Blood. It took me about two weeks to finally listen to it though. Hey, life happens… I guess I needed to be in the perfect mood and frame of mind to fully appreciate it. Since the first 3 tracks of the album were those she already made available (the aforementioned tracks, plus Green & Gold), the listening experience was like going from well-trodden paths to unknown territory. As soon as the first notes of Tokyo were played, and Lianne’s delicate voice started singing, I already had a smile on my face. Sounding familiar and somewhat similar to songs from Is Your Love Big Enough?, it was different, as mentioned earlier. Something more. While Unstoppable and What You Don’t Do have that positive, playful energy, and look at love and relationships from an optimistic place, Tokyo is the first song of the album that exudes melancholy and loneliness. Full disclosure: I have a weakness for sad songs. This means tracks like this one made me love the album. Next on my list of favourite songs, which actually happens to be the following track on the album, is the incredible Wonderful. I don’t think I even have the words to express how much I adore this song. Delicate, sad, precious, it just reaches deep inside of me and stirs memories and emotions I may have been keeping tucked in there for a long while. Before I get overly sentimental, let me move on to the lighter Midnight, which gives us a glimpse of a more mischievous young lady. Daring and confident, the singer invites us to live with her at the witching hour, an offer that sounds very tempting to me. I read somewhere Lianne saying that Blood was her most personal project to date, which is obvious with the tracks Green & GoldGhost, and Grow, dealing with her childhood, presumably past relationships, and what her generation is going through. Closing the project in the most beautiful way possible, Good Goodbye is highly emotional too, especially as I lost my uncle last year and have been thinking about my late grandmother a lot lately. Let’s not forget the “good” in “goodbye” though, as indeed, “no one ever leaves you“.

Now that you know a little bit more about Lianne La Havas’ second album, Blood, discover the videos for the first two singles, and of course go get your copy! The album is available on digital, CD, and vinyl via her store.

Find out more about Lianne La Havas on her website, Facebook & Twitter

UK talent: Pencils Not Pistols EP, Imperial x K.I.N.E.T.I.K.

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Cover artwork for Pencils Not Pistols

K.I.N.E.T.I.K. is no stranger to this blog and after I first told you about him and his Kinesis Thesis Vol. 3 last year, I am very pleased to let you know about his brand-new release. Teaming up with fellow UK artist and talented producer Imperial, the incredible MC presents the Pencils Not Pistols EP. Following a first collaboration between K.I.N.E.T.I.K. and the Illect Recordings affiliated producer for a single, and because the two artists have a common vision, they decided to keep on working together and create a project together. The result is a wonderful treat for your ears, with a blend of spotless, soulful and jazzy production courtesy of Imperial with K.I.N.E.T.I.K.’s trademark lyricism and compelling rhymes. Dealing with anything from inspiration and motivation (Go HardCount Your Blessings) to relationships (Just The Way I Feel) and the need to unwind or modern ways of so-called communication (Zoning Out), among other interesting topics, the MC always laces his bars with great wordplay and well-researched information. The overall vibe of the Pencils Not Pistols EP is very chilled and engaging, which guarantees a lot of head-nodding and smiles on the listeners’ face. In addition to the quality of the music and the MC’s skills, our ears are also blessed by singer Tone Richardson’s suave’s vocals and Joanne Francis’ engaging hook. Offering an EP that stays true to the basics of hip-hop, Imperial and K.I.N.E.T.I.K. also prove that The Pencil Is Mightier Than The Pistol indeed! In short, this project gives you the perfect balance between positive energy, education and emotion. Listening to it now, while feeling somewhat down for various reasons, I can’t but feel uplifted by the different songs, and especially Count Your Blessings, which reminds me that no matter what happens in my life I don’t have any reason to complain. To finish off the project, Put Your Pencils In The Air adds a little humour, just to make sure that you indeed feel good and smile after listening. Imperial and K.I.N.E.T.I.K.: mission accomplished!

Now that you know a bit more about Imperial and K.I.N.E.T.I.K.’s Pencils Not Pistols EP, discover the album on Illect Recordings’ Bandcamp page, or simply by clicking on the link below. Enjoy and tell your friends and pencil lovers about it!

Find out more about Imperial on his website and K.I.N.E.T.I.K. on Facebook & Twitter

UK talent: The Brilliant EP, Breis

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Cover artwork for The Brilliant EP

Breis’ name had been on my radar for quite a while but I have to admit I didn’t really check out his music until quite recently, after I discovered his amazing collaboration with French producers HornDogz for Movin’ On, a wonderful track that also features London MC Ty and singer Peeda (in case you missed it, watch the beautiful video for Movin’ On). When he shared the link to my podcast, where I played the track, I felt compelled to have a look at his page and the various links he posted. I had actually seen him post about The Brilliant EP but didn’t take the time to check it out (shame on me, I know…). The timing was perfect then though, and I am quite happy I clicked play. As soon as I listened to the first track, wittily called Landmarks & Spencer, I knew I would not only love the project but feel “homesick” for London. Full of wordplay and references to the English capital only people who visited or lived there can catch (and I’m quite proud to be one of those), the track is therefore a great introduction to the EP and sets the tone perfectly. A wonderful blend of hip-hop, afro-beat and various other influences, the album sounds like a snapshot of Breis’ universe and what life in London town can be. From the lively and enticing Strictly to the short but funny interlude Jammin’ On The Bus, or the more personal Fear of Failure and Mocking Bird, among other amazing tracks, the MC takes the listener on a very interesting journey through his mind where the thoughts and feelings he shares are easily relatable. It is always a pleasure for me to discover a new artist and realise that I can actually “get them”, that I can understand the experiences they recount and be touched by the creative ways they use to express themselves. The Brilliant EP may touch upon dark topics at times, as is the case with Sharon, but there is always a ray of hope and a conviction that things will be alright eventually. The others tracks I mentioned earlier, Fear of Failure and Mocking Bird are probably my favourite, as they allow Breis to bare his soul and share some emotions I know oh too well. While the lyrics are always perfectly written and Breis’ flow is seamless, the music also accompanies the MC in the best possible way, only enhancing the positivity or emotion, depending on the songs (those strings on Mocking Bird!). All in all, and I am sorry if I was not able to resist the temptation, it is indeed a Brilliant EP that Breis offers the listener! From the high energy, bouncing initial tracks to the more delicate and heartfelt final ones, the album evolves in the same way as a day does, with the rising of the sun followed by darkness. The beauty of it is that we know the light will be back. It has to be back. Thank you Mr. Breis, for this beautiful reminder!

P.S. I absolutely love the album cover!

You can listen to and purchase The Brilliant EP on Breis’ Bandcamp page, among others, or simply by clicking on the link below. Enjoy the ride and pass it on!

Find out more about Breis on his website, Facebook & Twitter

UK talent: The Kinesis Thesis Vol. III, K.I.N.E.T.I.K.

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Cover artwork for The Kinesis Thesis Vol. III

Here is one of the many posts that have been waiting in line for months and that I absolutely wanted to share with you. I guess “newness for your ears” may be replaced by “long overdue” in some instances, but as I stated several times on this blog already, better late than never… Why did I want to tell you about this project that came out several months ago? Well, it’s quite simple: few artists have this capacity to blow me away on first listen. K.I.N.E.T.I.K. is one of those. If you are not yet familiar with him and his music, then I consider it my mission to get you acquainted. I first discovered him when he was part of Grand Central, one of the most famous hip-hop duos in London, and I have followed his adventures ever since (however late I was). After seeing him on stage when the group opened for Black Milk during one of his shows in the English capital, I was impressed by his flow, witty rhymes and energy. While the dynamics in Grand Central worked quite well, I have to admit I’ve always preferred his solo endeavours and I was happy to learn he was still working very hard after the split, releasing projects and videos on a regular basis. The latest to date is the one I will now tell you more about, the last instalment in his album series, The Kinesis Thesis Vol. III.

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UK talent: Lost & Found EP, Lianne La Havas

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Picture of Lianne La Havas

I first heard of UK singer Lianne La Havas about a year ago, with the “Black Cab Sessions“, and she literally blew my mind. Months have passed and she is getting more and more recognition, deservedly so. After several releases and many performances, the talented lady finally released her debut EP, the incredible Lost & Found EP. I know I have a tendency to use this sort of adjective a lot and anything I post on this blog is always something I love, but some artists or projects touch me more than others. In that case, I sometimes feel words are not really appropriate to express the depth and extent of what I feel when listening to the music.

While I already loved Lianne La Havas’ voice and style before, I have to admit the single, and more precisely the video, Lost & Found moved me so intensely I couldn’t help but cry. I won’t go into details, but suffice to say that I could relate to the words and feelings expressed. The wonderful video only enhanced the atmosphere of the song and made it all the more powerful (props to Colin Solal Cardo for this masterpiece). As I was thinking about the song yesterday, I realised that this is the kind of music that is deeply personal, as it comes from the artist’s own experience, but also universal as people can relate to it, even though they haven’t been through exactly the same thing. I believe that is one of the reasons why this particular song is so beautiful and precious. More

Video interview: Greg Spero

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Picture of Greg Spero

I first told you about Chicago jazz pianist Greg Spero with a “spotlight” after I came back from my trip to the Windy City and I am very happy to have met him again, this time in London. It was a great pleasure for me to finally see him on stage and to attend the wonderful event that was the Buddy Rich 25th Anniversary Memorial Concert at the Palladium. The quality of the music was incredible and both the band and the special guests blew me away. After such an amazing event, it was also very nice to get to spend some time with Greg and to record this interview, where he tells us more about the actual concert (including some interesting insider revelations), as well as his upcoming shows in England and Germany, among other things. He is not only a very talented musician, but also a very enthusiastic individual, whose energy and positivity are contagious. Without further delay, let me introduce you to Greg Spero…

Discover the interview after the jump… More

Newness for your ears: Patchwork The EP, Szjerdene

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Cover artwork for Patchwork The EP

The first time I read about London singer Szerdene was back in January 2010, when I discovered her Collage: The Demo on SoulCulture. Over the months, I was always delighted to discover her new singles and collaborations, including her work with Dutch singer Mar (if you have never heard their rendition of April 14th, do yourself a favour and head over here). It is therefore with great pleasure that I learned about her brand-new project, Patchwork The EP, released via Wonderful Ear Records. Of course, I couldn’t not share such beauty with you! In case you are not familiar with Szjerdene’s music and her amazing voice, this should serve as a great introduction, before you discover her previous releases. Freshly signed with Plug Research label, the young Londoner is getting more and more shine on the independent soul scene, deservedly so.

With Patchwork The EP, you get a glimpse of what Szjerdene can do and with only four tracks, it definitely sounds as an appetiser which will make you eager to listen to more from the talented lady. Opening the project, we have Blue Lullaby, whose original version was featured on Collage: The Demo and which remains one of my favourite songs of hers. Deeply personal and emotional, it never fails to bring me close to tears, while Szerdene’s voice is sheer purity and perfection. Then, the delicate Turn also has a very honest element and the beautiful, discreet melody underlines the lyrics perfectly, allowing the listener to focus on every word and feel their power. More

Newness for your ears: The Mission EP, Eric Lau

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Cover artwork for The Mission EP

I know this is not brand-new and you probably heard about it already, but I’m sure you’re eager to read what I have to say about it. Right?! Ok, so I’ve been following Eric Lau and his releases for a little while and I really appreciate his production. It is therefore always a pleasure to hear he has a new project out. I was also fortunate enough to interview the London-based producer for Word Is Bond a couple of months ago and he had very interesting things to say. With The Mission EP, Eric Lau teams up once again with Guilty Simpson, after a first collaboration on For The D back in 2007 and I have to admit the two of them form a winning team and obviously enjoy working together. The combination of the MC’s voice and the producer’s music may leave some skeptical on paper, but the EP proves that it actually works extremely well and they complement each other perfectly. Coming back to hip-hop production but sprinkling it with touches of soul, jazz and funk, Eric Lau proves his versatility and the extent of his talent. To make the project complete, he added the incredibly beautiful voices of Fatima and Olivier Daysoul, that make some of the tracks slightly emotional and enchanted my ears, as well as the skills of musicians Chris “Daddy” Dave, Alex Bonfanti and Damu The Fudgemunk.

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Interview: Phoenix James (aka Phenzwaan)

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Cover artwork for Phenzwaan's Now & Forever

Phoenix James is a very busy man. The multi-talented, London-based artist has been working very hard on his acting career in the past months and you can see him in numerous short films, adverts and music videos. I first came across him about three years ago, around the time I arrived in London, when he was focusing on his spoken word career as Phenzwaan. Since then, I’ve been able to witness his growth as an artist and discover his acting talents. It is now a great pleasure for me to feature this interview with him and I want to thank him for taking some of his precious time to answer my questions. Now is the time to get familiar with Phoenix James, aka Phenzwaan…

First of all, in case there are some people out there who don’t know who you are, could you introduce yourself?

I’m Phoenix James also known as Phenzwaan, actor, model, writer, poet, recording artist, author.

You are a very busy man, always working on several different projects at the same time. Is it important for you to make the most of your time and be so active?

Yes, there’s a lot I hope to do and achieve and I’m not sure how much time I have been allocated to accomplish them all. I just have a lot of ambition and big dreams.

You are a multi-talented individual: writer and spoken word artist, model, actor, etc. You seem to always want to explore new territories and express yourself in varied ways. How different or similar are those artistic disciplines? Do you feel some things are expressed best in writing/on screen?

They are different but all similar in terms of connecting with creative energy. There can be different approaches for each but all are interlinked in that way. Some things are expressed better through different ways and mediums at different times but all are art, expression and creativity which I love.

You took on your career as an actor not so long ago but the list of your achievements is already quite impressive and inspiring. What motivates you to keep going? And is it important for you to be some kind of role model for younger generations?

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Newness for your ears: The Life Sketches EP, Mecca:83

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Cover artwork for The Life Sketches

I don’t know what it is about the month of June, but after an excellent one last year, with the migration of the blog to WordPress and a renewed inspiration, I have a wonderful feeling these days, a great desire to express myself and share the music I love, which had been buried under many layers of negativity and lethargy in the past weeks and months. Tonight, I have been overwhelmed by great music and I feel the need to share my excitement about it. So, after telling you about Fathom 9’s excellent SHS: Blue Notes from a Brown Soul a few days ago, I have more sonic delicacies to spoil you with.

I have heard the name Mecca:83 (aka Rise) on many occasions and did listen to some music by the UK-based producer before, but never have I taken the time to express my thoughts about it. Tonight, as I am offered his latest project, the incredible Life Sketches EP, I feel I have some kind of duty and should really let you know about it and how it made me feel. First of all, even before I pressed play, I knew I would love it. Not only because I was already somewhat familiar with Mecca:83’s music, but simply because the collaborations on this project are comprised of producers I admire greatly. Send me an email telling me you just released an EP with Replife, Spinnerty, BusCrates 16-Bit Ensemble and Emanative, and you’ve won my heart (well, kind of…). I am a big fan of all these amazingly talented people and knowing that they teamed up with similarly gifted Mecca:83 filled my heart with joy. When I started listening to The Life Sketches, my ears were in turn filled with beauty and my soul felt uplifted.

Sometimes, you listen to a track or an album and you just smile. You may not even realise it straight away, but you will simply feel so good it will be visible on your face.
I surely smiled hard here, as I felt a sense of happiness and peace, as I was transported by the soulful yet futuristic and spacey vibrations. There is definitely a soothing and spiritual element here, with the beautiful instruments, especially the warm, mesmerising piano and synths. Once again, it is one of those moments were words are not enough (or too much) to describe how the music made me feel. It is just something you have to experience and indulge in, a blessing that is both individual and universal. I don’t think it is possible to listen to The Life Sketches without being touched by its uplifting aspect and beautiful energy. I also think everyone should give it a try…

Now, as I know you are eager to discover Mecca:83’s latest offering and be elevated by the music, I will tell you that it is available on his Bandcamp page (support highly reccomended) or simply by clicking on the link below. Enjoy and don’t be selfish, pass it on!

Find out more about Mecca:83 on FacebookTwitter or Soundcloud

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