FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: I READ THE NEWS TODAY
Oh boy. A day in the life hardly goes by without me reading the news. I thought of The Beatles 1967 opus “A Day in the Life”, a seminal song taking its cue from actual news stories, as I juggled with what seemed the more dispiriting – Putin’s mad conscription drive or our new Chancellor’s ‘Fiscal Event’. Life was simpler when a story about 4,000 holes in the road made the front page.
Write about what you know. That advice is often given to would-be authors toying with torturous plot structures. It strikes me that songwriters who write about the lives they live have a head start and we’ll open today with one who takes stock of her life to date.
I came across the then Bristol-based artiste Kit Bennett aka Miss Kitty back in the lockdown days of 2020 when her feisty single “Flowers” heralded a splendid DIY album, Kiss & Tell. Kit has lived an adventurous life, beginning it aboard a schooner sailing around the Irish Sea, branching out from her musical and artistic family background to embrace a wild child of nature lifestyle and touring the UK and USA as part of the folk-pop band Wildflowers. Now as a solo act, she draws on her colourful life experiences, while retaining a certain rebellious nature of youth.
Miss Kitty has now swopped the cultural buzz of Bristol for the wide, open spaces of Welsh Valleys which feature in the imaginative video for “Game of Chess”, the title track from Miss Kitty’s new EP which was released two weeks ago. In this song she looks back on her life so far, comparing it to a game of chess: “sometimes we have to think ahead”. She may be exorcising some personal stuff and calling out some bad choices and influences but the song remains resolutely uplifting for all that. Her innate sense of melody, feel for song structure and choice of rich harmonies makes this another Kit classic.
One of life’s enduring mysteries is why Guildford’s The Lunar Keys are not yet packing out arena tours across the land. The four-piece indie rockers seem to have it all: a big, dynamic sound, strong band camaraderie, and compelling songs with relatable lyrics carried by great tunes that combine immediacy with longevity. It is good to hear that ears at radio stations have taken more note. The Lunar Keys have enjoyed over 2,000 plays from over 250 stations including BBC Wales, Amazing Radio and BBC Introducing, where three of the band’s earlier singles achieved ‘Track of the Week’ status.
Epic is a word that seems to sit well with The Lunar Keys’ output. The band’s new single, “Once”, continues this tradition. The song’s face down, carpe diem sentiments are ably supported by the precision drums-fuelled instrumental build behind a searching, soaring lead vocal. Midway things reach a peak in a haze of shimmering staccato guitar before falling back as the harmonies punch through. “Once” adds to growing canon of elevating songs that The Lunar Keys can call on. It’s going to be some set list when those arena seats are finally filled.
Early fans of Welsh indie rockers Catfish & The Bottlemen will recall the name of Billy Bibby, a founder member and lead guitarist of the band originally called The Prestige. Billy was instrumental (sic) in developing the band’s sound, actually teaching frontman Van McCann and bassist Benji Blakeway how to play. It was a big surprise when Billy parted company with them just as seven years of paying their dues was about to culminate in the release of Catfish’s hit debut album, The Balcony. A year later Billy reappeared to front his own outfit, Billy Bibby & The Wry Smiles releasing a first EP, appropriately titled Bide Your Time.
After what seems like quite a hiatus, Billy has now returned with a solo album, “Piece It Back Together”, featuring a collection of his songs, old and new, this time with an acoustic delivery. The breezy lead track with its 60’s acoustic pop vibe, “Dream Or Reality”, was chosen for its straight down the line sentiments. The full album is dedicated to Billy's long-term producer and friend Russ Hayes who sadly suffered a brain aneurism a few months ago and is battling to get himself back to full health. The record is a kind of timeline of Billy’s work from his early days until this present day.
As a little bonus, here is a song from the 2016 Billy Bibby &The Wry Smiles EP – “Don’t Fall”. You can find a new version of it on Billy’s new album, Piece It Back Together. Another reason to check it out on Spotify and the usual platforms.
Back in January, I was very much taken by the widescreen sweep of a song called “Poster Girl” from the husband and wife duo, Sam and Sarah Gotley who perform under the aegis of Blue Violet. Indeed, missing their set at Glastonbury this year was a big regret; one of those unfortunate but all too familiar can’t be in two places at once scenarios. Next time, I sincerely hope. To recompense, I am delighted to preview Blue Violet’s new four-track EP, Love, Hate & Forgiveness, which is expected on 21 October, with the single, “Favourite Jeans”.
Following quickly on from its Spring 2022 debut album, Late Night Calls, the EP is a product of lockdown and will include two acoustic reworkings of songs from that record, plus two brand new offerings including “Favourite Jeans”. Sarah describes it as being about “having the courage to pick yourself up after a hard time and the little things you do to find happiness again”. One such small step is going out in your favourite jeans; a familiar and comfortable metaphor for a kind of redemption. The lyricism the couple brings to its songs is something rare while their vocal interplay is simply delightful.
USE – short for Untitled Social Experiment - is the moniker of Malvern, England native Daniel James Smith and Krystall Schott from Los Angeles who have been commuting between the two locations a few months at a time since Covid. USE came about when the pair met at a kind of careers crossroad in their lives. “We both had been in different creative / entertainment industries where we had agents telling us what to do and what we could and could not put out. We just wanted to make music so we decided to do a project with no rules and sort of “use” everything we got” Krystall explained.
The solid beats, two dominant chords and heavy synths in “A Billion Years” put me a little in mind of Gary Numan. It’s a kind of futuristic back look; a piece of music that sits up and grabs attention from the ominous opening raps on the snare. The interplay between Krystall’s sweet yet deadpan drawl and Daniel’s robotic vocal effects is particularly effective. Taking its cue lyrically from the futile diversion and angst that TV remote surfing brings, the song seems to be more about using that downtime to enjoy your life now rather than let it bring you down.
We’ll finish with that Beatles song I thought of earlier today when scanning the news. “A Day in the Life”.