Tag: pop

Album review: Shorty ‘The Northampton Underground’

SHORTY The Northampton Underground [ShoeTown Records] Northampton singer-songwriter Shorty [aka Chris White] has quickly followed up his enticing 2017 album Abington Park with a big collaborative effort. It’s an album…

SHORTY
The Northampton Underground [ShoeTown Records]

Northampton singer-songwriter Shorty [aka Chris White] has quickly followed up his enticing 2017 album Abington Park with a big collaborative effort. It’s an album almost thirty years in the making [at least the concept – of a big group effort with strings and brass – is a long held desire of White].

The title is reference to the 2014 spoof that Northampton once had an underground train system in the early 20th century, which has the immediately impact of warmth towards the album. It surely also works as a metaphor for many of the players on the this album and what they represent. And make no mistake, this is a very Northampton album. The inlay artwork has the London Underground map with stations annotated with ShoeTown places of interest to Shorty [everything from ‘Cobblers and ‘Semilong’ to in-jokes like ‘John’s House’].

White, a former member over the years of The Clique, Happy in Heaven, and Abbey Park,  has assembled some of the town’s best talent to bring his vision to life. Some of P-Hex are here, for example. Local cheesemonger Stevie Ward serves up guitar left right and centre. And so on and forth. Musically over fourteen tracks and forty-seven minutes there’s a little something for everyone. Let’s delve in, shall we?

(I’ll Be Your) Plus One’ is a 70s style glamish romp with ELO harmonies. Roxy-style sax solo is a touch too. ‘It’s Alright’ and ‘Out In The Sun’ later on cover similar ground [aural comfort blankets for the winter months]. ‘How Can This Be Love?’ is the first of two performances featuring Californian singer Danie Hollobaugh, who shares leads vocal on this nice, if saccharine, duet. ‘I’ll Find A Place’, the other song, is sadly a flat, rather derivative outing. ‘Feeding the Duchess’ is an alt-country with rasping bluesy harmonica intro from Dom Strickland [The Clique]. It’s melodic and inviting, as it details domestic bliss [“I’ll buy you a Chinese on Friday night”]. ‘I Wish’ contains more Wilco-esque musings, and White has this style down pat. 

‘Caravan’ has Lindsay Spence and Nathan Bundy from P-Hex joining in on the baggy dystopian stomper that is a lot of fun. Stay with Me’ is pure soft-rock with Fleetwood Mac vocals. ‘There Was a Time’ has Andy Orr (drummer with The Scene and Small World) on it. It is Beatles-esque psychedelia on the production side [backwards guitar, compressed Hammond, etc], it’s very charming in its period detail. ‘Ticket by Chance’ brings on the soul-jazz flavours – plenty of flute! – a Weller meets Mayfield sort of thing. Lovely too it is.

‘Thank You’ is gorgeous stringed pop that really needs to be heard by everyone who reads this review. Go stream right now in fact. ‘As I Wait Alone for You’ and ‘I Said a Thing or Two’ finish the album in melancholic balladry style, both featuring Martin Stephenson [of The Daintees fame] on piano and guitar. They are quietly affecting; the mariachi trumpet opening the final song setting the mood just right. 

The Northampton Underground is a sprawling, often very pleasing, piece of work. Dip in and find your version of Shorty that’s suited to you, then spread the good word amongst your NN friends. 

Phil Istine

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New Music Friday: SkyFlood

Northampton rock quartet SkyFlood have been on the edges of the music scene for a bit of time now, but firmly seem set on making a name for themselves in…

Northampton rock quartet SkyFlood have been on the edges of the music scene for a bit of time now, but firmly seem set on making a name for themselves in 2019 with a revised line-up and a series of singles, starting with the marvellous 70s-style rock-pop of ‘Destiny’. New Boots spoke to the band about how they got here and where they go next.

How did you guys get together?
Craig O’Donnell: SkyFlood started about two years ago and not long after we released our first single ‘Flawless’. Since that time we’ve played many shows in and around Northants, but we’ve only recently began to gain some momentum as our current line up. We had a couple of band member replacements, but now it’s the strongest as a group it’s ever been. Rob and Lewis joined in November after advertising online, and Oli and I met through our old bass player over a year ago. With Oli it was love at first sound for me; he really kicked some of the songs up the backside and got them moving.

How would you describe your sound? Who are your main influences in music?
Craig O’Donnell: I would say it’s upbeat and colourful, as well as being quite dark at the same time. One of my main influences over recent years is Hans Zimmer – there is so much feeling in his scores and sometimes it’s nice to hear music without lyrics to make your own world up in a piece of music. My other influences include Radiohead, London Grammar, and Muse.
Oliver Law: Our sound is very different to anything up-and-coming. We have a wide variety of influences and sounds which all mash together to make something unique. My main influence is Queen which hopefully shows through my style of playing a little.
Lewis Else: Some stand out drummers for me are Jon Beavis [Idles]. He has such an driving and relentless sense of energy. Of course Players like Stewart Copeland too, filled with feel without overplaying ever.
Robert Hughes: Music taste? I like to keep it varied. As much as I love spag bol, I wouldn’t want to eat it every night and I try to keep it that way with music too – a nice varied diet. As players I like John Mcvie and John Deacon because they both focus on serving the song, but both are capable of adding some of the most memorable touches. Think ‘The Chain’ or ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ – in both cases simple but trademark bass lines.

What was the reaction like to ‘Flawless’ single, from 2017?
Craig O’Donnell: ‘Flawless’ was strange just because we released the song before playing any gigs and also had it played on BBC Introducing, so for anyone who listened to it that would have been their first time hearing it before they had even seen us perform it. The initial reception was great; we managed to get a few gigs just from that song alone, and it really helped us to build a platform to progress.

Tell us about this new single, ‘Destiny’.
Oliver Law: ‘Destiny’ was the first track I jammed with Craig. It started off very Supertramp, but it gradually became more dynamic and stronger to get the live shows going with a bang. It’s probably my favourite track.

What are your live shows like?
Craig O’Donnell: I would say, energetic and emotional. Our set starts off quite energetic and we try and carry that through the whole set but with the lyrics of some of the songs it balances out quite nicely

Are you part of a wider scene in Northamptonshire, playing with like-minded bands? Any favourite bands/venues to play with?
Craig O’Donnell: Yeah, my favourite place I think is probably The White Hart in Corby. It can be quite an intimate but explosive venue and when everything is just right it can make for some amazing shows there. My favourite band is Sarpa Salpa: we played our very first gig with them, and they were so lovely and kind to us and ever since I’ve been a massive fan of them, and their music is great too. My other close favourite is definitely King Purple – we haven’t played with them but really want to, they’re again so lovely and make amazing tunes.
Oliver Law: I’m more familiar with the Northampton venues than local bands. We’ve played a few local venues. I Always love the King Billy because it’s quite well known. Hopefully we can move up to the Roadmender before the year is out.

What has been your favourite band moment of the past year?
Craig O’Donnell: My favourite moment is actually hearing ‘Destiny’ on BBC Northampton, because there was nearly a point it wasn’t going to see the light of day and to top it off Lal had very lovely words to say about it, which I was ecstatic with.
Oliver Law: Favourite moment of last year was finally getting ‘Destiny’ and a few of our other tracks recorded. We went through a couple of producers because we were very picky about the mix, and we drove them out of the country. But we eventually got there with a company called Damage Audio, who has absolutely knocked it out the park

What was the last album you bought/streamed?
Craig O’Donnell: Mine was an Icelandic Artist called Olafur Arnalds, called Re:member
Oliver Law: The last album I bought…25 copies of our unreleased EP, because it’s that good.
Lewis Else: The last EP I bought was Flamingods ‘Kewali’. It’s a crazy mix of eastern folk mixed with psychedelia and electronic music

What is your burning desire for the band to do in 2019? What plans do you have?
Robert Hughes: To play some gigs, write some anthems, entertain the masses and have some excellent fun.
Craig O’Donnell: Destiny is going to be the first release of 2019 and definitely not the last from what we’ve got lined up.

‘Destiny’ is out now across the usual digital platforms. Photo credit: Hana Smith

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