FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: PARASKEVIDEKATRIAPHOBIC? ME?
So, Friday the Thirteenth: a seemingly endless horror franchise from the 80s or just plain unlucky for some? Not one for the paraskevidekatriaphobic then. I put that one in the vain hope that a few of Susie Dent’s 600k followers on Twitter might get excited. However, rather than contemplate irrational fears or stupidly long words – what have the Greeks ever done for us; actually, quite a lot – today I am more mindful of the passage of time. As we hurtle towards an uncertain Christmas holiday, it is striking that there are just a few weeks to go before some of us try to find enough in the diary to scrape together a round robin letter that extends to more than a half sheet of A4.
In a year when so much was cancelled by so many, there was of course no Glastonbury Festival this June, though the annual Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition was still concluded in readiness for 2021. Looking back, one of the three acts I chose to progress to the second stage of that competition, The Lunar Keys, greatly impressed with its epic alt-rock anthem “Dreams R Never Spoken” followed in the summer by the strictly irresistible “Dance With Me”. Favouring quality over quantity, the band comprising lead vocalist JC, The Steve on guitar, Lexi on keys and Dominik on drums, has now announced its third single in 2020, “If It Was”, available from Monday.
Self-described as “four anxious types with too many tunes and nervous energy trapped in their psyches not to be in this band”, The Lunar Keys trade in strong, direct songs with memorable tunes. The new song certainly maintains the high bar set by previous recordings. It has the most straight down the line lyrics I’ve heard in some time, easily relatable to anyone with concerns about this planet’s current curation and direction. It's a song about protest and possibilities and the band simply asks - would you sign your name?
Continuing a theme of global chaos, Canadian singer-songwriter Jordan Paul has introduced the immersive “Archetype X”, a single off his forthcoming album, Already Gone. Paul wrote and recorded the song on an acoustic guitar he has since lost, making this the last song fashioned on an instrument that meant a great deal to him. It is in part inspired by the character of Denna in Patrick Rothfuss' epic fantasy trilogy, The Kingkiller Chronicle; Paul considers the beautiful yet ephemeral Denna to be the embodiment of an archetype he feels many of us can relate to: “our desires only fall into reach when we no longer attempt to grasp them.”
“Archetype X” comes across as relatable self-therapy; to quote the songwriter, “only through deep introspection can we heal the ugliness inside ourselves and begin to make the world a better place. I believe if we do the difficult work within, we will see a change without.” It is an accomplished piece of work, hallmarked by Jordan Paul’s distinctive rootsy vocal style and built up delicately before resolving into a fully electrified coda. The full album was recorded with BC producer Jonathan Anderson in a small cabin at the foot of the Rockies over two weeks. “It’s very off-the-cuff, it has me playing instruments that should be left to the professionals… and yet here we are.” The evidence from “Archetype X” and previous single, “Strange”, suggests that self-deprecation as well as stellar songcraft is another endearing trait of Jordan Paul.
The gestation of songs can take quite a while. For instance, some of the songs on Jordan Paul’s forthcoming album were first conceived when he was between 14 and 17 years old. Another singer-songwriter who started writing in her teenage years is the Belfast ‘hazy folk pop’ artiste known as BEA. Now having completed a three-year songwriting course in London, we are beginning to enjoy the blossoms of her labours. Her debut single, “These Streets of Ours” came out on 2 October and a follow-up, “Ghost” is expected at the end of this month. BEA then plans further recordings culminating in a full EP.
“These Streets of Ours” is a striking debut for the 22-year old, showing maturity in her writing beyond her years. Vocally she pairs an individual, soft brogue with delicious phrasing and musically she works some contemporary urban textures into an acoustic folk tradition. A familiar aftermath of a break-up story takes on a fresh lease of life as the imagery of the streets and spaces shared by the erstwhile lovers is woven effortlessly in and out of the song. This is impressive songwriting from a newcomer with great potential to create her own niche in a crowded landscape.
Hardly eclipsed in a stellar week for emerging artistes is another lunar-titled outfit, the Bristol-based quintet, Stay Lunar. The band comprising Harry Leigh (vocals), George Coggan (guitar), Tom Caton (keys), Charlie Skeates (drums) and James Rowland (bass) recently emerged from the corner of its piece of sky with the sumptuous “Not Your Fight”. The song started life as a slow-build rock song until Harry Leigh introduced a fast-paced bedroom pop drum beat and the dazzling riff that you hear first in the intro and which knits the piece together. It was then fully developed and polished by the whole band in a September recording session.
“Not Your Fight” has a seemingly bleak backcloth; pretty much a message to Leigh’s former self that you can only go so far in helping someone with an addiction before the fight consumes you and becomes your own battle. Despite the dark material, it maintains an optimistic feel underlined by the bright synth and guitar sounds. The band name, by the way, came from Harry Leigh’s night owl tendencies which gave rise to the phrase 'staying lunar', or 'staying up during the lunar hours'. The phrase was quickly adopted while the band searched for a fitting name. Confessing to a broad range of influences across the band members, contemporary as well as back to the 80’s, Stay Lunar is taking a considered approach to building its repertoire over the coming months.
We end on an especially poignant note. I referenced the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition earlier. Along with The Lunar Keys, I nominated Tors and Sophie McGeorge to progress to round two of the competition. Sadly this week I learned of the recent death of Sophie McGeorge from breast cancer. I hope to post a separate tribute to Sophie shortly but for now I would like to reprise her Glastonbury ETC entry, “Dreamrakers” as a brief and fitting testimony to her precious singing and writing abilities, and a beautiful life so tragically cut short.