Passenger is the stage name of Mike Rosenberg, a rising star on the current UK folk revival circuit. His songs are a sublte blend of traditional English folk, americana and pop. When I was sent Fairytales & Firesides, a beautifully stripped down folk/pop song, I didn’t actually know that this was by the same artist that released the dreary and overproduced effort Wicked Man’s Rest in 2007. That was a record that had potential, by an artist with a clear talent, but was completely butchered by overproduction much in the same way as David Grey’s White Ladder.
Good news then, that Rosenberg seems to have learned from this. Gone are the distractions, artificial strings, samples and horrible effects that ruined his previous songs, to be replaced by a very back-to-basics approach to songwriting. One man, a guitar and some beautiful songs. With a knack of penning a lovely song, why ruin it? While Passenger probably isn’t ever going to push many boundaries or become a musical revolutionary, he doesn’t need to – he can write beautiful songs and sing them, beautifully. Sometimes thats just enough. Okay so this time round he’s playing bars and basement venues rather then opening up for Scouting for Girls but you know what, how can that possibly be a bad thing? I for one am glad he’s jacked in the Radio 1 lighter-waving pish for something of significantly more substance.
Passenger is currently embarking on a UK tour. He plays the Roadhouse in Manchester on 1st August.
Avid readers of Friend Rock will recall that I have written about a band by the name of To Sophia before. For the uninitiated, they are a constantly evolving musical project, taking influences from folk, jazz, soul and blues. Well, here’s another twist in their ever changing tale.
Esses is the working title of a side project from To Sophia’s lead singer (Najia) and guitarist (Paul). Where To Sophia’s sound is often driven by strong electronic sounding percussive elements, with Esses, there is a much stronger leaning toward traditional folk music. Sample track And You Sleep is a beautiful and mesmerising exploration of intricate guitar work and harmonics. I found myself listening to this track again and again, and with each play the the vocal harmonies become almost white noise, not dissimilar to the natural rumblings of a forest in a rainstorm. A sound familiar, yet also disturbing – very fitting then that this is a song about sleep, and dreams bringing solace and comfort.
The combination of these hypnotic, trance-inducing vocals and beautiful folk influenced acoustic guitar is almost perfect. While I can cite artists that I am remindedof (Brigitte Fontaine, Syd Barrett, Beirut, Radiohead, Jefferson Airplane) there is nothing, that I have heard anyway, that sounds quite like this.
The independent music scene in Manchester is often criticised, rightly or wrongly, for being stagnant and resting on its past. Well, as I have said before, as long as there are bands like To Sophia (and Esses) pushing the boundaries of cross-genre experimentation, as a music fan it warms my heart.
To Sophia are playing the Kaylied Stage at Kendal Calling Festival on Saturday 31st July.
Amoriste are a delightful indiepop band from ‘Down South’. And for a bunch of southerners, they can’t half pen a tune. I have been championing this bunch for a couple of years now, since I saw them in their previous guise Soprano in the dingy and slightly terrifying Oldham Castle back in 2006. Since then, they’ve had a slight lineup and name change, but the acoustic, melodic and folk influenced sound remains.
Their latest release, a delightful EP by the name of Under the Hours of Satelling Towers demonstrates perfectly how this band are constantly developing their sound and maturing into an act that really do have the potential to be very successful. Opening track Saturday AM is a great balance between acoustic pop, catchy keyboards and warm, sun-kissed jangled guitar work. Following on, Let’s Talk is a heartwarming and emotional piano driven piece that goes further to show that there is far, far more to Amoriste than just happy acoustic pop music.
Standout track though has to be City Lights. A song that brings together elements from their other tracks and is complimented brilliantly by lead singer Liam Tolan’s vocals, that in this song particularly remind me of a young Morrissey, especially given the Johnny Marr-influenced perfect rhythmic guitars.
Under the Hour of Satellite Towers is released on July 15th on My Satellite Records. They play Night & Day on Tuesday, 20th July.
I’ve been stupidly busy recently so I apologize for it being all quiet on the blogging front recently. I’m going to try and make it up to you now with two posts in one day. “Oooooooooohh!” can I hear you say? Well you better believe it. Here goes…
Broken Social Scene – Manchester Academy
Broken Social Scene have always been one of those bands that, despite being on my radar, I haven’t really been inspired to see live before. Fortunately a ticket landed on my lap, and it being a rather typically grim Monday evening in Manchester, I thought I should go along and see what all the fuss was about.
The rain was falling, it was a dreary Monday evening, Brazil were playing on the TV and yet half of Manchester’s music community seemed to be at this show. This is, I feel, testament to the fact that Manchester really is still at the centre of the world when it comes to an interest in good music. The band were feeding off this energy and the buzz around the room was infectious. Broken Social Scene played an absolute blinder – a perfect mix of old material, new material, upbeat rock ‘n roll and heart warming ballads. Sounds went from Tom Petty- style country rock, through to Wilco influenced indie folk-rock-electronica and the percussive eastern influenced progression often associated with bands like Beirut. Guest vocals and brilliant instrumental sections rounded this off, and after well over 2 hours of solid music, and with no regard to silly things like curfews, everyone (including the band) was left wanting more. It was one of those magical moments where you just know it could have gone on all night if it were possible.
For an ‘on the fence’ semi-fan such as myself, this was probably about as good as it gets as an introduction to a live music experience. I have always ‘quite liked’ BSS’ records, but have never been blown away to the extent I know other people have. I came away from the show refreshed, and comfortable in the knowledge that the Broken Social Scene live experience is about a million times better than the Broken Social Scene record listening one.
A big shout out and much love goes to Guitar Dean for inviting me along to this.