Archive for August, 2011


Written by James Christopher Sheppard

Florence and the Machine have just unveiled their first brand new single since ‘Heavy in Your Arms’ was featured on the last Twilight soundtrack. The band’s debut album, Lungs, was a massive success, making #1 on the UK album chart and being certified four times platinum. Expectations are understandably high for the new material, and ‘What the Water Gave Me’ does not disappoint. With references to a Frida Khalo painting and the author Virginia Woolf, the new track is every bit as full of drama as you’d expect. The best thing about ‘What the Water Gave Me’ is that is not what would generally be expected as the first single from their new album. It isn’t necessarily commercial orientated, but epic- in every sense of the word. Welch’s unmistakable vocal is complimented by a choir of backing vocalists and an intense string arrangement. The song is jam-packed with emotion and drama and builds over it’s 5 minutes and 33 seconds to anthemic status. The album will follow in November and if it’s anything like this, it will be absolutely brilliant. 10/10

Watch the video for ‘What the Water Gave Me’ by Florence and the Machine here:

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Charlie Simpson’s Young Pilgrim

Reviewed by James Christopher Sheppard

Charlie Simpson is a name many will know. Some from his days as a third of teen bopping band Busted and some will know him as front man of alternative rock band Fightstar. Either way, Simpson has been known since 2002 and has been a part of five studio albums. At the age of 26, Charlie is releasing his first full-length solo release and it sounds pretty distanced from anything the singer/songwriter has been involved in before.
‘Down Down Down’
First single from the album is a good indication of what is to come. The song is entirely acoustic driven, with thick as treacle vocals, laden with emotional depth. The folk-rock ballad is stacked with multi-layered harmonies and builds to a gentle climax.
10/10
‘Parachutes’
‘Parachutes’, also the second single, picks up the pace and builds on what ‘Down, Down’ has already established. This is possibly the most radio-friendly and mature that Simpson has ever sounded. Brilliant.
10/10
‘All at Once’
‘All at Once’ at first entices with it’s toe tapping beats, but the sound soon turns to a sorrow filled as the song of heartbreak progresses. Simpson’s vocals sound confident and crystal clear, with the song completely utilising his unique tones.
9/10
‘Thorns’
Gentle, with a subtlety that draws you right in to the melodic dreamy higher tones of vocal harmony going on in the background, ‘Thorns’ is a careful ballad. The softer verses against the more exuberant choruses work wonders here.
9/10
‘Cemetery’
The fifth track shifts the memento into a new direction. ‘Cemetery’ is a combination of pop-rock-folk, which makes for a charming reminiscent song and one of absolute authenticity. Simpson’s voice is pushed to the limit, experimenting with his higher range and occasionally showing moments of strain, which surprisingly, adds to the song.
9/10
‘Hold On’
The most mellow moment of the album so far, ‘Hold On’, is lead by multiple layers of Simpson’s harmonies against a backdrop of strings, arranged by the renowned string arranger, Audrey Riley. A well crafted smooth ballad.
9/10
‘I Need a Friend Tonight’
The second string lead track, with assistance from Riley, is simple and melodic. ‘Friend’ is mid-tempo, soft and changes the mood of the album somewhat, as Simpson and the song both remain quite delicate and fragile. It’s hard to decipher whether ‘Friend’ is Simpson claiming he has found or is looking for religion, or if he is claiming he is lost and still can’t find his way home. I’ll let you decide, but it’s a pleasant song all the same.
7/10
‘Suburbs’
The tempo picks up a little with ‘Suburbs’, but the song in all it’s simplicity does little to further what is already great about Young Pilgrim. ‘I need you now, I need you now’ Simpson repeats. It’s possibly the least remarkable song on the album, but it still is not bad.
6/10
‘Sundown’
The temp change was only temporary as we are back down to the balladry of ‘Hold On’. ‘My heart is yearning for you dear’- this strikingly scarce track is one of the most powerful on Young Pilgrim in terms of pure passion.
9/10
Read the rest of the review at Eyewear

Written by James Christopher Sheppard 

It’s exactly 15 years since the Spice Girls burst onto the British music scene with ‘Wannabe’ and stormed to number one. In July 1996 an unknown all-girl pop group were suddenly all over television and radio promoting a song more pop than pop itself, about really really wanting a zig-a-zig-ah and friendship never ending. The sentiment was fresh and girl power was born. The group were hard to miss, with each girl having their own individual style, which at the time was practically unheard of in the pop world. Prior to Ginger, Baby, Sporty, Scary and Posh, the commercial music industry, particularly in the UK, was dominated by indie pop bands like Oasis, Blur and Radiohead, the super divas Celine Dion and Mariah Carey, and boybands that dressed the same like Take That and Boyzone. Despite their beginnings as a manufactured group, Geri, Melanie C, Emma, Melanie B and Victoria broke away, wrote their own songs, got themselves signed and did it their way. The Spice Girls represented freedom, fun, girl power and individuality and the world loved it. In celebration of this 15 year anniversary, I’m going to look at some of the highlights that have come from this phenomenally successful group of girls over the years.

Spice was the must-have album of 1996 if you were at school. With only ten tracks, half of the songs were #1 singles. While people remember ‘Wannabe’, ‘Say You’ll Be There’, ‘2 Become 1’, ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ and ‘Mama’, the album also boasts some pretty extraordinary album tracks, like ‘If U Can’t Dance’ and ‘Naked’. Spice was released on 4th November 1996 and went on to sell over 23 million copies worldwide. In just a few months since the girls released ‘Wannabe’, Spicemania was hitting fever pitch. There were Spice Girls chupa chucks, Spice Girls duvet sets, Spice Girls wall-paper, Spice Girls Pepsi cans, Spice Girls chocolate bars, Spice Girls dolls- Spice Girls everything!

Just twelve months after Spice, came it’s second coming, SpiceWorld. If ever there was a part one and part two of an album, it was Spice and SpiceWorld. ‘Spice Up Your Life’, ‘Too Much’ and ‘Viva Forever’ all hit #1 in the UK, whilst ‘Stop’ stalled at #2. SpiceWorld was not only the band’s second album, but also the soundtrack to their movie of the same name. While the movie may have been panned by critics, it still managed to top the UK box office over Christmas 1997 and hit #2 in the USA, stopping behind ‘Titanic’. SpiceWorld seemed to pretty much mirror the success of Spice, selling over 20 million copies and sitting comfortably inside the Best Selling Albums of All-Time list.

In May 1998, during the ‘Spice World Tour’, Geri Halliwell split from the group, which certainly affected the future of the group. As chief songwriter and the master mind behind Girl Power, what seemed to be the passionate creator of the group, had jumped ship. Melanie B was the first of all of the girls to release a solo single, which was the urban ‘I Want You Back’ with Missy Elliot, which struck #1 on the same day as one of the group’s Wembley Stadium shows. Later that year, after almost a year of touring, the four remaining girls recorded and released ‘Goodbye’, scoring their eighth #1 and third consecutive Christmas #1.

1999 was a quiet year for the group, but was the first time we saw Geri Halliwell, Emma Bunton and Melanie C step out as soloists. Geri Halliwell released her first solo album, Schizophonic, which closely followed the Spice Girl album ingredients- ten brilliantly catchy pop songs. ‘Look at Me’ hit #2, while ‘Mi Chico Latino’, ‘Lift Me Up’ and ‘Bag It Up’ all made it to #1. Emma’s first release outside of the Spice Girls was a cover of ‘What I am’, recorded with Tin Tin Out, which hit #2, behind Halliwell’s ‘Lift Me Up’. Melanie C initially experienced the least successful start to her solo career. While her duet with Bryan Adams, ‘When You’re Gone’ had a been a huge hit the previous year, Melanie’s first few solo singles, ‘Goin’ Down’ and ‘Northern Star’ were only moderately successful and her album Northern Star charted at #10 and swiftly fell out of the chart. Despite the luke-warm reception to Melanie C’s solo work, when ‘Never Be The Same Again’ was released in early 2000, the song soared to #1 and remained there for two weeks. Northern Star subsequently re-charted and climbed to #4, eventually shifting over 4 million copies worldwide. Northern Star remains the most successful release from any solo Spice Girl.

Three years after Spiceworld, came Forever. The album was heavily R&B influenced, apposed to the previous pure pop sound the group had stuck to. The double A-side ‘Holler’ and ‘Let Love Lead The Way’ hit #1 and the album made #2 but quickly disappeared from the chart and memory. The album was largely seen a failure, both commercially and critically and spelled out the end of the Spice Girls.

Also at the end of 2000, came Melanie B’s debut solo effort, the underperforming Hot. While the album produced a couple of top ten hits, ‘Tell Me’ and ‘Feels So Good’, Melanie B’s solo career never really gained any momentum. Just when it was looking like the golden five-year wonder of the Spice Girls was coming to an end, Geri Halliwell released her biggest success to date, her cover of the Weather Girls’ ‘It’s Raining Men’, which stayed at #1 for two weeks and served as the theme to the massive movie ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’. Around the same time Emma Bunton released her debut solo album, A Girl Like Me, with lead single ‘What Took You So Long’ which, like Halliwell’s ‘Men’, hit #1 and stayed there for two weeks.

Victoria Beckham was the last Spice Girl to release a solo album. Her self titled album received very poor critical and commercial success and she has yet to make another. Where her singing career has waned, Victoria has become the best known of all of the girls. She is now a very successful fashion designer, television personality and is, of course, married to David Beckham and is mother to their four children. Victoria’s most successful single remains ‘Out of Your Mind’ with Truesteppers, although it is ‘Let Your Head Go’ which seems to be the favourite with fans.

Read the rest of this article at Eyewear