FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT
So, is love but a second-hand emotion? It goes without saying that without love a deep seam would be missing from the songwriting mine. If you can’t help falling in love, it can be an endless source of inspiration. Tainted or not, love is the drug. You can have a whole lotta it or it can hurt, be your sunshine or make you crazy. So, if you can’t live if living is without [insert him, her, it], want to know what becomes of the broken-hearted, or simply want to second that emotion, read on. Love is all around. It’s all you need and it has all to do with the song choices featured in today’s column.
We featured Emma Denney in July when she released her hauntingly beautiful song, “That’s a Start”. She has a conspicuous flair for storytelling which is again evidenced by her latest single, “Who We Are”. While the former song told the tale of a friend’s break-up in a style suggestive of a personal diary entry, the new one is autobiographical. “Who We Are” charts how, in a past relationship, two people can seem so perfect for each other but in reality, that’s not always enough in itself to make it work. The special feeling and enduring spark that love engenders can't be put down simply to personality tick boxes. When Denney questions whether it is the person or the comfort of being in a nice relationship that she misses, she speaks for the many.
Here Denney threads a delicate piano melody with a graceful circular flow. Vocally there is a noticeable likeness to Kate Walsh, the Essex-born singer-songwriter who took an indefinite hiatus in 2012, to all our loss. By contrast, Denney plans to release more singles in the coming months, while she works on the style and sound she is trying to carve out. A self-confessed bedroom artiste to date, she looks forward to taking her first steps towards live performance once Covid-19, ever hopefully, is under control. With a host of videos planned and more writing to do, 2021 is set to be a busy year for her. Yet she is palpably modest in her aspirations: “My only dream is that people hear my music and like it and can relate to it and feel inspired by it, just like the music I listen to does to me. That would be enough I think.” Somehow, I think those particular boxes will be rapidly ticked.
In the beautiful, concisely realised “Ticket to a River”, Brighton-based Olly Hite contemplates another aspect of love, that of feeling scared to fall in love. The new song is the third release from Hite and part of a collection of six eloquently crafted songs which run alongside an album to be titled In Everyone. All tracks are recorded on acoustic instruments from a simple piano and vocal to a full orchestra, with arrangements scored by Shelley Gent who provides the sympathetic cello accompaniment on this live version here.
“Ticket to a River” focuses on the uncertainty of the journey of falling in love. It’s about asking someone to join you unreservedly on this emotive of all trips. There are echoes of Elton John in the melody construction but Olly Hite’s plaintive vocal reaching to a fragile falsetto makes it all his own. Will the course of love run true? One thing is for sure – a great song can always uplift you and as Olly says: “Music is medicine and I for one think there has never been a time where a regular dose or prescription of melody is needed.”
Now for a kind of love song; wholly different but one that is just as caring. The London-based singer-storyteller, Gecko, has produced an extraordinary and tender song whose unveiling coincides with the anniversary of Laika, the first dog in space in 1957. “Laika” echoes Gecko’s great knack of writing songs in character from different perspectives. It’s in a way a love song to the poor Moscow stray who became an instant celebrity in an era with little by way of animal rights. Like many kids who grew up fascinated by space travel, I got caught up in the daring and romance of it all. I certainly didn’t get the reality of Laika’s sad demise. I now do and Gecko’s compassionate and respectful song brings more than a little tear with it.
Gecko cites Randy Newman as a big inspiration in his teenage years while further influences on his work include Eels, Conor Oberst, Jamie T and Beastie Boys and. I can see a definite hint of Mike Skinner aka The Streets in his deft storytelling style and sing-speak delivery too. You’ll find “Laika” on Gecko’s excellent new album, Climbing Frame, which mixes poignancy with humour, nostalgia with a whole lot of love. Moreover, it’s a record from a particularly gifted wordsmith that delves into the past to offer hope in troubled times.
The downside of love is the heartache of it ending. South London via Bucks indie pop quartet Bleach Lab unveiled a compelling new song this week dealing with the aftermath of an ended relationship. “Never Be” drifts through waves of echoey guitar over a synth wash, steady bass and percussion to give a real platform for lead singer Jenna Kyle’s airy though always persuasive vocal. The song successfully juggles the mixed emotions of regret and solace: of wanting to return to the way things were with coming to terms with the new reality in a positive way.
Jenna Kyle explained that “Never Be” came together smoothly: “Frank played us his new idea for a guitar riff and by the end of the session we pretty much had it down. It was the perfect timing really as I was processing so many big changes at the time and it was like a perfect platform to express it all.” While it is a relatively new outfit with this being the band’s fourth single, there is already a seasoned feel to the music Bleach Lab create that suggests it is around for the long haul.
Another new band with a song out this week dealing with a facet of love is Brighton’s China Bamboo. “Ambivalence (For You)” is about the sadness of unrequited love amplified by the growing pains of adolescence. The four-piece is headed by vocalist and synth player, Ruby Waltham, who wrote this song thinking back to her own feelings of ambivalence as a sixteen-year old, when the good was only ever temporary and the sadness was real. Abandoned and then revisited, it was fully revived under guitarist Danny Gunn’s tutelage. There is a decidedly 80’s feel to the end product and a soft intimacy revealed in Ruby Waltham’s waiflike vocals. A full EP should follow in the first half of 2021.
The final word on love this week goes to a multi-instrumentalist, song writer and producer with the amusing moniker of Mint Eastwood. Yorkshire Moors based, you might have expected Cliff Heath as an alternative nom de plume but he’d have hardly made your day. Indeed, along with involvement with several bands and musical projects, Mint had previously traded under the name, Palm Beach, releasing some dreamy synthwave via a French record label, Opening Light, back in 2014. “Screwed Up” documents a failed relationship and an out of control character stumbling through situations in an alcoholic haze. Self-labelling his musical style as ‘slackertronic’, Mint exhorts his ex-muse to “tell all your friends I’m drunk again”.
There is a marvellous ambience to the song and a warmth driven by the analogue textures he weaves that cuts through the loneliness and mess of a relationship gone wrong. In a ‘nuff said’ statement, “Screwed Up” dissolves into an engaging instrumental, closing with a big guitar melody. In business to have fun with music again, the name Mint Eastwood just seems to fit perfectly with the artiste’s vibe. His mini EP, I've Seen That Look Before, came out last month and he is planning a second release before the year is out, time permitting. It could well make my Christmas Day.