If you have followed my website for a long time, the name Simon Kent may sound familiar to you. Ever since I was introduced to his music a couple years back, Simon’s music has held my attention. You can imagine my excitement when I was given early access to his forthcoming record In Another Life for a review.
As I already expected, the album is full of well-structured songs that give gentle nods to the electro-pop of the 1980’s. Simon’s voice is as amazing as ever, quite frankly he is in possession of one of the most attractive and unique sounding voices I’ve heard in a while.
Fans of Simon Kent will not be let down, as he only builds upon the strong sound he has developed over the years. The melodies have strong hooks and the instruments are heavily electronic with ambient tones washing over the tracks.
Though In Another Life is not due for release for some time, one of the tracks(which has had airplay on BBC Radio 2) is available on Youtube for a listen (link below)
If you have not had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with Simon Kent’s music, now is the time to start. This record is perfect for anyone longing for the sounds of Duran Duran, Tears for Fears and David Bowie being reimagined for the modern era. When the record releases on the 6th of March 2017, I highly recommend you experience In Another Life for yourself.
Simon Kent can be found at:
I’m always on the lookout for new and fresh artist to brighten my day. I recently came into contact with the music of Jake Aldridge and I can say I was pleasantly surprised. His new single “When I’m Feeling Down” is a combination of rap verses (via Jake) and pop choruses (sung by Ellie Jamison). Jake’s Suffolk accent gives a unique charm to his rap flow, and it works well against Jamison’s bright vocals.
The song itself is a celebration of friendship, the kind that is everlasting. In Aldridge’s words he wanted “to thank my best friend for always being there for me and I hope” the song “inspires others to be thankful for their true friends as well.” The lyrics which play off of this theme are easy to remember and make for a great radio single (the easier a song is to remember the more likely it is to chart).
The production of the song, from the instrumentation to the mixing (done by producer Johann Elliot), is done just right. There is a tendency for people these days, especially with pop songs, to over-produce the track. “When I’m Feeling Down” has just the right amount of effects to give it a good feel and nothing beyond that (which is a good thing).
If you want an upbeat song to give your day some needed sunshine, I suggest you check Jake Aldridge’s single out.
“When I’m Feeling Down” can be found at:
Jake Aldridge can be found at:
It’s always interesting to see how a music artist evolves in terms of their sound. In the case of Manchester native Naomi we’ve seen her go from what I’d call a “pure” pop sound (when she performed as Caleidra) to a more progressive pop sound (with her debut single under the Naomi name “Rivers Run”). This is most evidenced in her new EP Take Back The Power which is a departure from her more organic record Another Day.
Here we see a full embracing of an electro-pop sound with lyrics that reflect her new sound. The lead single from the EP “Take Back the Power” almost seems to be a declaration that states “welcome to the new era.” The song exists in three forms on the album; the single version, a Tiesto-esque dance club remix by DJ George Bowie, and (my personal favorite) a crunching rock remix by Simple Minds’ producer/collaborator Gordy Goudie. The song has a strong melody and each mix gives a different experience of the track. The other tracks on Take Back the Power are the songs “My Mistake” and “Didn’t Make the Grade.”
“My Mistake” is honestly the strongest song on the entire album. The harmonies, the atmospheric tones, the groove, the instrumentation, and Naomi’s voice all come together in a truly perfect way. From the pre-chorus you know something great is going to happen and then the heavily harmonized chorus kicks the song into the stratosphere.
“Didn’t Make the Grade” is the most relaxed and arguably darkest song on the record. The heavy use of Naomi’s falsetto along with the pocket groove and strong piano/synth lines really gives the song unique character.
All in all Take Back The Power is a strong EP that easily can be placed among today’s pop stars. Naomi’s sound is mainstream and unique at the same time. Her voice is uniquely hers; not a clone of people currently occupying the Billboard top 40.
Naomi’s worth your time, I promise.
Take Back The Power can be found at:
Naomi can be found at:
Anyone who knows me knows that U2 has had a massive impact on my life. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without their music, their ethos, and their persona. Like my mom who introduced me to the band, I know that they have an ability to write the songs of a life. My life’s soundtrack can be filled with U2 songs, from the anguished and lost soul crying out in Achtung Baby and Pop to the dystopian fantasies of Zooropa and the soaring heights of The Unforgettable Fire.
U2 has had many incarnations, each with their distinctive musical traits. I personally have always been partial to the experimental side of U2 found in their 90’s era albums like Achtung Baby and Zooropa, but I truly love it all.
Songs of Innocence took multiple (enjoyable) listens to digest how I viewed it in the scope of U2’s sonic contributions. Even more so the liner notes unlocked the deep emotions that went into the album. This is the most overtly personal I have ever seen the band. Their lives have always been intertwined with their music, but in Songs of Innocence the band’s lives ARE the songs. Bono himself said this of the album:
“We wanted to make a very personal album. Let’s try to figure out why we wanted to be in a band, the relationships around the band, our friendships, our lovers, our family. The whole album is first journeys — first journeys geographically, spiritually, sexually. And that’s hard. But we went there.”
Whereas the other albums have multiple topics (social, personal, political etc.), the personal journey of a life well-lived is the point of Songs of Innocence. From the first time U2 heard the Ramones to Bono watching his mother die as a young boy to the band’s pilgrimage to Los Angeles (my ever so beautiful hometown)… Songs of Innocence is a moving, uplifting, jamming, bleeding, broken, and spiritual collection of songs that take you inside the head of the band.
The feel of the album, from instrumentation to overall song structure, makes Songs of Innocence seem like it is one part the direction of All That You Can’t Leave Behind, one part the direction of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and the rest is a new area. Gone is the massive amount of multi-faceted musical experimentation (which admittedly I dearly love). In its place is a raw, stripped-down album that makes you realize why the album took so long to make (a paradoxical statement I know…but allow me to explain).
The openness of Songs of Innocence is hard to achieve. There are no frills; it is just 4 guys in a room making music. The album does not feel heavily processed, but really like an exploration into what the guys sought out to make when they first started. While I was expecting a push further in the direction of No Line on the Horizon, this pure storytelling, anthemic rock album proves that Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. do not need numerous layers of instruments and electronic sound samples to create art.
Will Songs of Innocence go down as groundbreaking? I doubt it. The thing is, however, this album is not intended to be a magnum opus. The folk approach of telling a story is really what Songs of Innocence is all about. This album is a reflection on life, the band’s life. It is a window into their collective minds, and as a life-long fan it is a raw honesty I can truly appreciate. This is a U2 that is saying “come into our hearts, whether or not you understand what you hear, we are going to say exactly what we want to.”
Guys, welcome back.
(Hey guys, as you might remember I posted the song “Nine Sixteen’ by New Zealand native Bruno Merz a while back. He is someone I have listened to for a while now, and I am happy to say that I interviewed him. He really is an insightful human being, as well as an amazing musician. I hope this interview inspires you to check out his music, he is someone that really deserves a listen. -Derek)
Derek Kortepeter: So what inspired you to do music? Was it a specific moment or song, or was
it kind of just a succession of events?
Bruno Merz: I think it was something that just needed to come out at some point. Music
really helped me in stages of growing up when it felt like nothing else
could. It was very therapeutic for me to play music and I would sometimes
sit for hours at a piano and play hypnotic melodies until I felt better!
The songs were sort of a natural extension of that…
DK: You’ve released two albums to date (“Through Darkness into Day” and “Departing
From Crowds”), and are currently in the process of releasing the third as
you complete the tracks. What would you say you’ve learned about yourself
artistically (or personally) over the time you’ve been recording these
BM: Plans changed a little bit from my initial idea to release them one at a
time – I’ve started working with an old friend to record a full length
album back in my homeland of New Zealand (*he did this interview in NZ btw)
We’re about 2 weeks into it and it’s sounding great. Very excited to
release this one. Through Darkness into Day was just a collection of demos
I released online as I had a lot of people requesting the songs. They were
terribly recorded! But they certainly capture my first attempts at song
writing. With Departing from Crowds I had a chance to make things sound
sonically better working with a producer in Amsterdam and using better
equipment. I still feel like that was a massive learning curve for me and
I’m already much more sure of what I want for this next album and won’t be
repeating mistakes I made on that one. I guess I’ve learnt slowly to trust
myself a lot more. I have quite a specific taste for sounds and I
tend to go with my own instincts now. I know that I would rather produce my
own stuff than have someone else do it. Mostly because I know very
specifically how I want things to sound.
DK: How is writing the new album and its respective songs going?
BM: Going really great right now. I hope people like it! It’s a collection of
songs I’ve written since the EP and it’s been a long time coming. We’re
re-recording 2 tracks from Through Darkness into Day which I think deserve
another chance. It’s a really relaxed process this time and I’m excited by
how things are sounding already at this early stage.
DK: The intimacy of your songs is one really distinct quality that gives you
uniqueness. How hard is to re-create that when performing live?
BM: It depends a lot on the venue in my experience. When it’s a good sound
system and the right crowd it can be amazing. It’s definitely possible to
do a very intimate set. I think sometimes even more than on a recording
sometimes as you can really connect to people in a way that you can’t do
when you’re physically not there.
DK: What would say is the process, if you can pinpoint it at all, of your
songwriting? Do you draw at all from personal experiences?
BM: The process and inspiration varies but I think most common is feeling very
strongly about something or someone that needs to come out in a song. I
helps to let it go or something. There are definitely personal experience
songs thrown into the mix. An idea or a whole verse or melody will just pop
into my head (love it when that happens!) and that triggers the rest of the
song. Sometimes I have to decipher what it is that needs to come out but at
other times it’s crystal clear. I have literally hundreds and hundreds of
melody ideas recorded on my phone but it’s usually a lyric idea that will
turn them into a song.
DK: I remember, a long time ago when I was a junior in high school, getting
“Nine Sixteen” on an Artist of the Week card at Starbucks (it’s actually
how I discovered your music, luckily I wanted a cappuccino that day!). That
song has been a part of my life for so long, especially now that I am about
to graduate University, and I know that other people were touched by that
track thanks to the download. What was it like being chosen for that
BM: That’s really nice to hear Derek and is exactly what keeps me wanting to
continue to write. It’s quite a funny story how that happened. My songs
were just sitting on MySpace and getting quite a lot of unexpected
attention, but I was feeling pretty disillusioned about it all around then
for some reason. I had decided THAT EVENING to give up on music and
concentrate on the illustration work I was doing to pay the bills. That’s
when I got an email from Starbucks. Kinda like a sign to keep going! I was
very excited and it was the first legitimate sort of recognition I’d had.
Still don’t know to this day how they found out about me.
DK: Since we are on the topic if you reaching global exposure, your song “For
You Now” was featured in the soundtrack to the film “Life As We Know It”.
How exciting was it to know that a song of yours would be in a Hollywood
BM: That was also very exciting! I didn’t quite believe it would really happen
when I was first contacted about it. It’s certainly given me a lot of
exposure and that’s quite hard to get for musicians these days.
DK: Can you talk about the whole experience of covering a Biffy Clyro song
for “Love Music Leeds”? I have struggled myself with mental illness (severe panic
disorder with depression and agoraphobia) for quite some time, and I just
think the mission behind the project is so beautiful (since, as a composer
and musician, I have seen how music keeps me and many other people in a
healthier state of mind).
BM: I’m sorry to hear that. They sound like terrible things to have had to
battle with. Hope things are going better now. I live in Leeds and was
asked with a bunch of other local musicians there to cover a song chosen by
someone with mental health issues that had helped them. Anyone that knows
my songs will know that I write a lot for people that need a lift out of
some kind of trouble so I straight away said yes as I thought it was a
great idea. I’d never heard the song before but it all went pretty
smoothly. I know how much music helped me through my troubled times and
want to make it my mission to help as many people as I can with music. It’s
amazing how healing music can be. They’ve made a great documentary about
the whole process which I hope will be available online sometime.
DK: Now, if I’ve read correctly, you split your time between the U.K. and your
home country New Zealand. What is it like interacting with both of those
music scenes, and how have they responded to your music?
BM: It’s weird, I think most of my fans live in the U.S. and other European
countries. In England they really like promoting local people that have
grown up there so I sometimes feel a bit in No Man’s Land. I think my
exposure in New Zealand is pretty tiny. I’m planning on changing that
though as it’s where I grew up and I do miss it there. I feel very lucky to
have recently got funding from New Zealand on Air to record a track and
make a video that they will promote through television etc. That should
help a bit. That’ll be one of the songs on this new album.
DK: What can we expect from you in the future?
BM: A lot more music a lot more regularly! Also I’m hoping to start touring
properly on the back of this new album. It’s taken me a while but I’m
finally seeing that this is what I want to do with my life so I’m giving it
DK: Anything else you want to say before this interview closes?
BM: I guess that I’ve learnt that every single person has something unique to
give to this world. Follow your passion to find it and trust that it will
all turn out for the best. There’s something very special that happens when
you hone in on your gift and decide for it – life becomes a lot lighter and
enjoyable. Also, thank you for these well thought out questions. It’s been
a pleasure answering them for someone who genuinely knows the songs.
Bruno Merz can be found at:
Love’s a pretty scary thing. Hell, I would rather get in the cage with a hungry snow leopard family sometimes than feel those things that you know are going to throw you into a brick wall. Then again, if you feel good enough to write a song like this, how can you complain?
I can think of ways…no no no I’m not going all cynical…just listen to the freaking song lol