I’m writing this on my birthday. I wake up to the sound of my cat clawing at the curtains; my eyes catching tiny glimpses of morning light with each scratch. I decide to hide under the covers for the best part of an hour before finally accepting defeat and dragging myself out of bed. I slowly shuffle towards the bathroom, look into the mirror and see a tired, reluctant face staring back. I’ve never much liked my face – it reminds me too much of my father, and with each passing year it feels more like his than my own. My relationship with my dad is virtually non-existent – he had an affair with my best friend’s Mum when I was 13 years old. He seems to have completely given up on the idea of repairing the damage between us these days; I don’t even get a card.
I listen to Francis Lung’s ‘Back One Day’ to cheer myself up – it’s a song that manages in a few triumphant minutes to reaffirm my belief in life and love. There’s a raw honesty in Tom McLung’s lyrics, and the tender piano notes feel almost Daniel Johnston-esque in their tone. The impressively cathartic chorus breaks free with almost willful abandonment. McLung’s solo ambitions have been in the works since he was a teenager, taking a backseat during the WU LYF days, but always there… his song-writing being patiently refined and developed. Having built up a reputation for an impassioned live show, McLung seems to be able to delicately balance both the intimate and more extrovert aspects of performance. The clean white suit he wears demands the audience to look at him… but when you do, you see a performer lost in his own world… and the accompanying video to ‘Back One Day’ reflects this, with Manchester visual artist Ella Deacy keeping the focus on McLung’s anguished facial movements. At times McLung reminds me of John Lennon, his melodies are beautifully simple in their structure, or at least they seem that way; I guess that’s the trick to all great pop music.
The passing of time often goes by unnoticed; days become nights, weeks become years… we see the changes happening all around us and yet we try to convince ourselves we’re not really changing too. Before you know it, you find yourself looking at a face you don’t really recognise. Today is my Birthday, and I am looking into the mirror. My immediate reaction is one of repulsion, closely followed by fascination… love and finally, relief… because I’m still here, trying to be the best person I can be.
Willis Earl Beal is trying too. An artist who speaks with an unparalleled honesty, his music touches me on a very personal level. It’s hard not to relate to a man that has seemingly lived his life searching, creating… adapting. Beal’s story so far is almost mythological.. raised in Chicago, he joined the army and was discharged, worked a succession of low-paid jobs… even spending some time homeless. He left self-illustrated flyers around town in the hope of finding a girlfriend. He auditioned for the X Factor (dropping out at boot-camp) before being signed by XL imprint Hot Charity… releasing two albums, Acousmatic Sorcery and Nobody Knows to critical acclaim. The fame that followed seemed to have a negative effect and acknowledging this, Beal retreated back into his art (and loneliness) to write his latest work; the self-produced and released Experiments In Time. This 21 track collection of lo-fi recordings breathes new life into Beal’s soulful voice, which at times echoes the warm tones of Nat King Cole. A tender vulnerability is found throughout the album, and as such makes it emphatically and heart-breakingly relatable.
M O N E Y’s recent track Bluebell Fields is the biggest indication yet that the band I watched perform as Books, Youth and Meke Menete are about to say hello to a mainstream audience. One youtube commentator even accused them of being the next Coldplay. What the fuck?
With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to Kraken – the solo project of charismatic lead singer Jamie Lee. His recordings, which can be found scattered across the internet like breadcrumbs leading you to a house made of confectionery, are more fragile and soul searching than you could ever imagine. It was not lost on me that when Jamie recently performed at the mythical SWAYS Bunker, he covered Daniel Johnston. His performance was intimate, captivating and dangerously close to being my favourite moment of 2013.
I’ve always been obsessed by myths and monsters – the Kraken was a huge sea creature that destroyed ships. I’ll leave you to google up uncensored images of Jamie to see if this holds true…