Entry #21 – idkwhyidkwhere (a.k.a Word of mouth is a wonderful thing)

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Well this is something a wee bit different for the blog. For the first time I have been contacted by someone in the outside world and they have asked me if I would consider listening to a band’s music, specifically their latest single, and give my thoughts and feelings here on A-Side Glance. Of course, I said. Glad I did too.

The single in question comes from an indie rock band in Devon by the name of Region, a three piece consisting of Luke, Rio and Will who describe themselves on their website as “friends who just want to have fun with their music”. Their inspirations include the Foo Fighters, so immediately I know I’m dealing with a band with good taste which is always good. So far they have two singles to their name and it’s their most recent that we’ve got on our plate here, just released on February 20th.

First thing I got from this song: Noise. The slight sound of static gives way to a loud whining guitar that grabs your attention and puts you on your toes. Rather gritty, borderline punk sound which immediately strikes me with the thought that this is going to be a song that translates well onto the stage once live shows are up and running again (No more cock ups till June, please and thank you). It’s a tune that reflects well on the opening lyrics talking of ‘Driving towards the sunset’ before we get deeper into the song and the narrator laments how the person they are singing to isn’t the same as they once were. While like I say there is an undercurrent of punk to this song, the theme of melancholy quickly becomes apparent. ‘I just don’t know whether you are yourself anymore’. It’s not full blown sadness, it’s frustration more than anything. The repetition of the line ‘I don’t know’ throughout the song then indicates that frustration has given way to hopelessness.

And I don’t think that’s more apparent than in the third verse, the first after the chorus. Luke has gone on record saying this is his favourite verse that he has written up to this point, and I would have to agree as it is the lyrical highlight of the song. While ‘I don’t know’ is a recurring line throughout, here this verse deals with the person being trapped in his head, like a fly buzzing around in your ear; it’s bloody annoying and we end with the mantra ‘Just get out, get out, get out, get out’. We all get that feeling of getting something or someone stuck in our heads but when it’s something we don’t think we can solve or do anything about, we loath every minute we spend dwelling on it. After all, what’s the point?

If I do have to be critical about one thing with this song, it has to be with the chorus. While I love the tune behind this song and all three members are doing a cracking job with their instruments, I do feel like that the mixing is just a smidge off and that Luke’s vocals are ever so slightly drowned out by the guitar riffs. Like I say I love the tune but there is a point where it becomes overbearing and that is the point unfortunately. However, that is the only real nit I had to pick and apart from that, I rather enjoyed idkwhyidkwhere. I’m looking forward to seeing what else Region have got up their sleeve once the world has unscrewed itself.

If you want to check them out for yourselves you can follow the link below to their website, and below that is a vid where Luke explains the lyrics and production of the song.

Also, if you’re an up-and-coming artist like Region and you want me to check out your music for the blog then feel free to drop me an email: asideglance21@gmail.com

Region’s website: https://regionbandofficial.wixsite.com/regionofficial

Entry #20 – Cosmic Fringes (a.k.a Noel was right)

Paul Weller announces new album 'Fat Pop (Volume 1)'

Today is February 25th and I had resigned myself to just another day at the office, sorting out this afternoon’s radio show, finding out what’s going on around the north east and making witty comments about the songs I played. The usual.

And then Nick Cave and Paul Weller both dropped new music within an hour of each other.

I’ve been aware that Nick had teamed up with longtime Bad Seed Warren Ellis for an album named Carnage and once I’ve done this I’ll be looking into and reviewing that. For now though we’re going to concentrate on the brand new lead single from Paul’s new album Fat Pop. An album which for the record Noel Gallagher had revealed about a week or so ago but Paul dismissed his words as a load of bollocks. Cheers, Paul.

So yeah, Fat Pop (With a Volume 1 on the side so there might be more to come as soon as 2022). As it suggests this album seems to be heading in a more modern 2020s-style pop direction and the lead single Cosmic Fringes definitely indicates that shift in tone from the relaxed hippy vibe of On Sunset. The first thing you notice about this song is how similar it sounds to a lot of the songs you hear on mainstream radio these days. That techno beat sounds just like what we’ve all been hearing in pop music for the last decade or so. Thankfully though it does have that Weller-style touch with electric guitars blending in nicely with the beat. Overall, with its faster pace than what we’ve been used to from him lately and lyrics concerning bursting out as he has ‘come undone’ and ‘it’s too late to fix it’, it reminds me of From the Floorboards Up; energetic and in your face. There’s also the repeated emphasis of ‘on my own’. You can tell this was recorded during lockdown. I think recent events have made him decide he’s done with reflecting like he did with On Sunset and now he just wants to tear down the house with his music.

So what I do think of it? Well after listening to it several times I’ve gone from going “Really? This doesn’t seem like my cup of tea” to “Ok, yeah, I like it”. Reason being Weller is one of the last people I would associate with electronic music and that beat, while catchy, does seem a little generic for a man of his calibre. Then again maybe there’s beauty in the simplicity of it that I’m failing to see.

I do appreciate that artists feel the need to experiment with their styles and seeing as this is part of an album recorded during lockdown I could fully understand Paul’s want to go beyond his usual realms. As long as he doesn’t do a collab with Stormzy or Doja Cat then we should be alright. Plus, there’s the words of the man himself:

“It’s a celebration of music and what it’s given us all. No matter what situation you are in, and we’re in one now, music doesn’t let you down, does it?” (https://www.udiscovermusic.com/news/paul-weller-cosmic-fringes-single-fat-pop-album/)

So by the sounds of it, Fat Pop is going to be addressing different eras of music and giving it that Weller flourish. An intriguing concept. I guess I’m treating this song like I would anything that sounds different and not entirely how I expected; tentatively. I’m still eager to hear the full album when it comes out in May and am hoping that another single will come out between now and then to give us more of a taste of what’s to come. Time will tell.

Entry #19 – The Local Love I: Butterjunk (a.k.a The perks of community radio)

May be a cartoon of 1 person and food

At the time of writing this, every Thursday from 3-6pm I am on the air on Spark Sunderland where I present their Drivetime show for the day. One of the main features of the show, with it being broadcast on a community radio station in Sunderland, is that it features a song from a local band or artist each and every hour. It provides a nice contrast from the mainstream and opens up listeners’ ears to budding artists whose music may just be what they are looking for; something new, from the heart and brought to them by their own neighbours.

Since starting the lockdown editions of the show back in October 2020 I have found myself paying more attention to the local artists who end up being featured on the show, showcasing genres like straightforward indie rock to dance punk electronica to the playlists. It’s a refreshing part of Drive that I look forward to and I have found myself adding their music to my Spotify library. In an effort to hopefully give you some new flavours to try, I’d like to highlight these artists and some choice singles of theirs.

We’re kicking things off with Butterjunk, a three-piece band formed at Newcastle University who pride themselves on producing ethereal indie rock which is described by several music magazines and blogs out there as dreamgaze and lo-fi. Sounds like a good combination, dunnit? As soon as I read those last three words I was sold, I had to hear what they had in store for the show. And boy was I impressed.

Woodside was the first song of theirs that I heard all the way back in January, and is from their debut EP Normalised. Ethereal is the way Butterjunk describe their music and that word suits this song to a tee; the notes sound like they are bouncing off old walls. The word reviewers kept on using to describe this song was ‘hazy’ and the reverb on the music does create this impression of a dream-like state, flying through a clouded sky of melody. Lovely bit of psychedelia. Looking at the lyrics as well it seems that this song has continued to age like a fine wine (For better or for worse) as we have fallen deeper and deeper into the proverbial and Lockdown 3 became a thing after New Year’s. Vocalist Ben has gone on record saying Woodside is a “self-reflective song inspired whilst I was looking back at a year of my life”, and melancholy is very much an undercurrent here as a result. In particular the lyric ‘I was just looking for some who talked like me. Now I’m broken down, lost the feeling’ resonates.

The other single I wish to talk about from Normalised is the lead single Little Alien, something which I think I’m right in saying is very cutely illustrated on the album cover. Once again this song is drenched in reverb, which helps create an atmosphere befitting of a little alien sailing through space. It’s very much a journey into the unknown but one that you’re going to be all here for no matter what if this opening track is anything to go by. Special mention also has to go to the drum work which dominates the second half of the song, guiding the three of them along a trip through the space of sound. Normally, I’d argue that foregoing lyrics for a whole half of a song in favour of a jam session could make the whole thing feel disjointed, but here it showcases what they are capable of and that they can easily hold their own with instrumentals.

When live music becomes a thing again, make sure you leave a space at the top of your list of must-sees for Butterjunk.

Entry #18 – Sampling Soundtracks III: GoldenEye 007 (a.k.a Celebrate good times, come on!)

Image result for goldeneye 007 logo

For every fanbase for every piece of media, from TV shows, to discographies, to film series, to video games, there is something in there considered to be the Holy Grail. A piece of legend, something that has been seen or teased in the past, that has whetted the appetite of many a fan. As a Doctor Who fan that would be the discovery of the remaining missing episodes (Still waiting on Marco Polo and Fury from the Deep being found), or as a La’s fan it would be the discovery of never-before-heard songs from the band that could create that evasive second album. For fans of the most famous James Bond video game, GoldenEye for the Nintendo 64, the Holy Grail has been the graphical remake of the game that was developed in 2008.

Fans of GoldenEye have been clambering for a faithful update to the game for a long time now. Unfortunately, that old chestnut legal issues has prevented that from happening time and time again – Rights over actors’ likenesses, the Bond license and the rivalry between Microsoft and Nintendo have meant that this remake which was due for release on the Xbox Live Arcade was shut down. There was the odd screenshot and bit of gameplay leaked here and there but nothing came of it and the remake seemed lost to time.

Until now.

Yup. It leaked. It took nearly 13 years but it is finally out and if you have the technical know how to set up an emulator then it’s yours to play once again. As a result, GoldenEye has had a mini-resurgence with fans relishing the chance to play as Bond with a few more pixels. Nearly 25 years on, GoldenEye’s faithful fanbase still love and adore the game. Besides being a pioneer of the first person shooter genre, one of the main pieces of GoldenEye’s puzzle is its soundtrack composed by Grant Kirkhope and Graeme Norgate. To celebrate the remake’s leak, we’re going to take a peek into one of the most legendary video game soundtracks of all time.

There are so many tracks here to choose from and as a result I have had to very reluctantly ignore a few. That being said, you really should just check out the full soundtrack when you have time.

Facility

A legendary level deserves a legendary track and that is Facility in spades. Slightly industrial sounding notes of the Bond theme peppered throughout to create the quintessential ‘super-spy slinking around like a badass’ track.

Runway

One of the best parts about the GoldenEye soundtrack is that it constantly has that undertone running through it that you are alone. Runway, which takes place after the ‘sacrifice’ of Bond’s colleague, certainly evokes that loneliness. Sure it starts off rather bombastic, if a little melancholy, at first but then as it carries on as you get further into the level, as you are presumably sailing down the runway in a tank, it takes a turn. It’s as if it’s trying to convey what’s in Bond’s mind; sure he’s escaping, but he should be escaping with his mate.

Surface I + II

Same map, two polar opposite tracks. The first time we hit the Surface level, it’s daylight with the sun turning the sky a gorgeous pink and blue, and the music is almost triumphant as Bond plods his way through the snow avoiding detection from the guards. I’ve seen some people say it scared them when they were younger but I’ve always found it strangely calming. Second level’s version though, that would scare the bejeezus out of me. This time it’s dark, you can’t see a bloody thing, and the guards are after you from the off. The music is suitably cold and atmospheric as you try not to get lost and keep calm as your enemies stalk you from the shadows. Easier said than done.

Bunker I

There’s also two versions of Bunker but to be controversially honest, I really don’t like the second track. The first is brilliant though, playing well into the stealth aspects of the level, with Bond getting the drop on unsuspected guards.

Silo

Time for a good old-fashioned shoot ‘em up. James Bond has a licence to kill and this track is one of the better examples to remind you of that. Bonus points though to the ‘countdown’ part of the track if you’re cutting it a bit fine and the bombs you’ve placed are about to explode. When you hear that you know that shit is about to hit the fan.

Statue

Statue may not be one of my favourite levels of the game but I don’t think there is a better track that could suit a creepy dark park full of old relics while you’re shot out by goons with shotguns. A particular highlight is when it transitions to that crescendo that just screams ‘RUSSIA’.

Streets

Driving the tank through the streets of St Petersburg would be endless amounts of fun if it weren’t for the fact you’re on a time limit, which the snare drumbeat serves to remind you of. There’s a very war-esque, military vibe with the Streets track which suits going around creating havoc in the tank.

Depot

I don’t see this track getting as much love as I think it should. Like Silo, this is a track suited for a straight shoot ‘em up, let none stand in your way kind of situation but here it’s no holds barred as Bond shoots his way through the Janus base. I think this one could be a little bit better though, if it had some backing choir vocals added to it. Can we get something like that modded into GoldenEye XBLA please?

Train

Train is one of the more difficult levels in the game, and is a straight firefight with Bond ploughing through carriage upon carriage of guards. There’s something a little more gritty about Train’s track, as if Bond’s embracing his inner psycho as he mercilessly guns down everything in sight in search of Trevelyan and Natalya. Doubly so if you’re playing on the easiest difficulty and pick up the RCP90.

Control

The bassline. Nuff said.

Caverns

Very much a calm before the storm, Caverns can be a bit of a slog as one of the longest levels in GoldenEye. However, its length allows it to be more of the more atmospheric tracks in the game not just because it’s set in some dark wet caves but also because of its melancholic undertones. Like Runway, it feels like we’re tapping into Bond’s true feelings about the mission, how depressing it is that he is in pursuit of and out to kill a man who was once a good friend and trusted ally.

Cradle

And so we come to the final level of the game with a track that sets the scene for an all or nothing climax. The stakes are high and so are Bond and Trevelyan as they do battle hundreds of feet in the air. The keyboard notes capture the intensity of the Cradle level as you dish it out with Trev and his never ending supply of minions who flank you from every corner. You might be panicking, you might be under a lot of pressure, but who cares? You’re James f*cking Bond.

Aztec Countdown

Something a bit different. I could easily talk about the proper Aztec track and how grand it is but I’m giving mention to the intense version that starts playing once you activate the countdown for the shuttle. See, Aztec has a bit of a reputation of being the most difficult, anger-inducing level in the entire game, with guards that shoot lasers, drone guns that never stop shooting and Jaws wielding two assault rifles all standing in your way. If you manage to get through all that, you’ve still got to survive endlessly spawning enemies while you’re trying to get that shuttle to takeoff. With this track playing, your heart will be beating like mad and you’ll be praying to the Gods of gaming that you’re not going to blow it at the last hurdle. The timer freezing if you forget to open the launch bay doors doesn’t help matters either.

Egyptian

Silent Hill or GoldenEye? Either way, suitably mysterious and spooky for a level involving Baron Samedi, the man who cannot die.

So those are my picks for the best tracks from the main levels, but what about the miscellaneous bits of music you can hear across the game? Here’s a select few…

Watch Menu

For me, of all the bits of music you hear over the course of GoldenEye, this was the tune of my childhood.  Pausing midway through the game to take a breather and just leaving the watch ticking along as I collected my thoughts while this played. It is a rather calming track in my book. Plus it can lead to some hilarity if you pause in the middle of an encounter with a squad of goons and leave the game running for an hour.

“Everyone, cease fire! He’s looking at his watch!”

-ONE HOUR LATER-

“He’s got to look up at some point hasn’t he?”

Battle with Xenia

Jungle for the most part has no real music to speak of (Although it was meant to if the beta track is anything to go by), but then you encounter iron thighs herself, Xenia Onatopp midway through and engage in a boss battle with her. This starts playing and immediately puts you on your toes as you prepare for a tough battle. Or if you just aim for the head, a three second encounter.

Elevator (Control + Caverns)

Well you can’t really talk about the GoldenEye soundtrack without mentioning the elevator music you hear when you start up Control and Caverns. If you didn’t make Bond dance a little jig before exiting the lift then I’m sorry, you haven’t lived.

So there you go, that is my take on the GoldenEye soundtrack. And you know what? I’m only scratching the surface. There’s still a lot more to dig into; the main level tracks I haven’t talked about, the unused Citadel, the multiplayer versions, the main theme…Like I say, if there is one game’s soundtrack that you need to spend time listening to at least once, if there is a game itself whose soundtrack alone makes it worth playing, then it is GoldenEye. The full soundtrack is available below. Get listening.

Entry #17 – Weird Fishes/Arpeggi (a.k.a Owens vs La Havas)

Weird Fishes on Behance
I Googled ‘Weird Fishes’. This was the first result. Looks like someone I went to school with.

I think you have to be in a very specific kind of mood before you listen to a Radiohead album, especially during lockdown when your mental health is in a state of constant flux and the album you said you’d listen to would be Kid A. Simply put, for most of January I didn’t think I’d been in the right kind of mood to get through Kid A so to bridge the gap and psych myself up I ended up turning to my favourite Radiohead album, In Rainbows.

I’ve already talked about lead single Jigsaw Falling Into Place at length on this blog but I want to take  a look at another song on that list that falls under the category ‘Best song not to be a single’, like Gas Panic! from Standing on the Shoulder of Giants or Failure from The La’s (Or saying that, anything from the La’s). Basically the song that provides the biggest excuse to purchase/stream the album. For In Rainbows, that song is Weird Fishes/Arpeggi.

Now, one YouTuber I’ve been following as of late has been MicTheSnare (Can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3qbvcgOHXRIFIofXyd1vBw), mainly because he reviewed both Blur and Oasis albums and called Blur the better band, in terms of Britpop at least, so he can’t be all that bad. At the merciful end of 2020, he released his own quickfire awards show commemorating the year’s music with the standard categories such as ‘Best Bar in 11/8’, ‘Best Warping of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Name to Fit a Rhyme’ and ‘Album Most Suited for Waiting in Line for a COVID Test’. The Grammys could learn a thing or two from him. But one category that caught my eye was ‘Best Covers of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” on Albums by Women That Have Covers in Black and White Featuring the Artist’s Face Obscured by Their Hair’.

The co-winners were Lianne La Havas and Kelly Lee Owens. And the simple fact that this category existed, let alone that two rising artists had gone and done a cover of it and popped it on their albums, meant that I had to check both their efforts out.

Lianne La Havas – Weird Fishes

We begin with that signature opening drumbeat slowed down a couple of notches that dominates early proceedings before we start to get a more ethereal, ‘swimmy’ sound to accompany it, and create the atmosphere a song titled Weird Fishes deserves. The cherry on top though has to be the bassline, one which I never really paid attention to in the Radiohead version but here it’s loud and clear and keeping the song smoothly flowing. Lianne turns in a gorgeous and emotional performance here, one that for the most part reminded me of Billie Eilish singing No Time To Die. She nails the personal and bittersweet vibe of the song, peaking as the music takes a backseat three minutes in. It’s just her, alone, at the bottom of the ocean with the Weird Fishes. Then the band returns to create the impression she is floating back up to the surface, escaping. You can tell Lianne enjoyed every second of this and was determined to get it right. That, she definitely did.

Kelly Lee Owens – Arpeggi

Well, this was different. There’s no real drumbeat to start off with, instead we have a more mysterious sound produced by synths that create the impression of being underwater. Immediately a more mysterious, captivating atmosphere is created. As it turns out, this is in fact an instrumental which does make this a little trickier to talk about, trickier still because at first I didn’t feel like this was going anywhere for me. Therefore, I decided to do some digging. Turns out that this is in fact the opener to Kelly’s album Inner Song and that she did initially record vocals but ended up ditching them, believing that the music itself did the talking.

“What it represented for me was a beginning, the arpeggios rising from a murky surface towards the light” – Kelly Lee Owens, Rolling Stone, 2020.

Looking at it as an album opener I’d say it’s quite effective and probably a good stepping stone to her work. I admire that she’s saying that she doesn’t want to Thom Yorke and that the music alone creates the song’s story, but I can’t help but feel that the vocals are a missing piece of the puzzle. That being said, it is still a good adaptation of the tune and I do think that if you closed your eyes listening to this you would easily be able to picture yourself at the ocean’s floor.

Conclusion:

Going into this I had every intention of comparing the two versions of Weird Fishes/Arpeggi but now having listened to them and realised just how different they are I think it would be really unfair. Both are brilliant in their respective ways, with Lianne paying a more traditional tribute to the song with an excellent performance, while Kelly takes the track and puts her own spin on it. Both are clearly passionate about this Radiohead song and that passion bleeds into the music. They know what they want to do here and they do it to the letter. Give both of them a try if you’ve got time.