Welcome all to 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗹𝘆’𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗿, a series of weekly reviews by Charles Connolly - an artist in his own right. Here, Charles delves into the greatest brand new singles brought to you by the best unsigned artists on our electrifying and eclectic set of 𝙉𝙚𝙬 𝘼𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙨𝙩 𝙎𝙥𝙤𝙩𝙡𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 playlists.
𝙄’𝙡𝙡 𝙌𝙪𝙞𝙩 𝙀𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙮𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 - 𝙈𝙤𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙣 𝘼𝙣𝙜𝙚𝙡
Charles packs it all in...
Each week comes with private messages from artists wishing me to review their latest single. While some might think I find this annoying or tedious, I am actually flattered. It suggests that my Corner is somewhat of an aspiration. Something special for which to strive. Like a poor man’s Mercury Music Prize, but weekly. Which makes the whole thing rather difficult. The more popular my Corner gets, the more pressure there is on choosing the “right” artist and song. Back when I started, it was getting only a handful of views, then rather quickly it started taking off. Soon it was reaching something like 60-80 views. In recent months however, it is now being read by around 300 people per week. Which astounds me. Having said that, the New Artist Spotlight currently has close to 1,000 members, so therefore more than two thirds of them are not even glancing at it. Seems a shame perhaps, but I am certainly content with a few hundred views. My goal has always been to popularise a certain song by a certain artist. A song which I feel deserves that spotlight. This could be a relatively unknown artist who’s been with us a while, or it could be one of the notoriously talented top dogs of the community. Lately, however, I have been trying to review artists I have never reviewed before. Incredible talent that very few know about. It’s fair, and it’s right. It can also help to coax a quieter artist out of its shell. But it’s also a gamble. What I do is so much more than picking a decent song and briefly telling you it’s good. It involves a lot of work, time, effort and thought - which in a way I hope does not come across when reading them - I like them to seem effortless and natural.
The song of course has to be brilliant. Not just decent. It also has to give me something to write about - yes, I have discarded great songs because I would have little to say other than “this is a very good song and you should listen to it”, because this can simply be done in a Tweet. I want this to be different. To be special. Something actually worth reading. Because music is really just supposed to be listened to - rather than talked about. Correction: this can be fascinating in terms of interviews and the nerdy aspect of music, but not in terms of just telling you what happens in the song when you can just press play and find out for yourself. The idea is to really put you in the mood for pressing play in the first place, and to advertise the existence of said song or said artist. And to entertain you or make you think, in the meantime. There has to be however a modicum of give and take with these things. I am not after blind praise for my weekly mutterings, but the artist must be deserving. We blitz social media each and every week to make sure it goes to as many people as possible. It also can (and usually does) affect the following weeks’ NAS Top 20 charts. I mentioned that I had recently been forcibly trying to review artists I had never reviewed before. But lately I have been less compelled to do so. When I receive zero from the artist and they don’t even so much as “like” a Tweet, I feel duped. I feel cheated, used and dispirited. Not because I crave or demand praise, but because a far more deserving artist could have basked in the spotlight that week. It made me want to quit. To pack up my suitcase, salute one last time, turn and leave. To bow out after years of faithful service. I did my job well, I think, but I don’t like to be made the fool. I won’t be taken advantage of. So I’m packing it all in.
But what about all the good artists on the New Artist Spotlight? Could I do that to them? There are so many artists who DO deserve the attention, who ARE kind, good, appreciative, and willing to say thank you and share the bloody thing - if only for their own sake! But no. I am done. I am no angel. Ach, and now my head is buzzing and aching. What’s this damned thing now? Ugh - a conscience. That thing that attempts to coax us into being more angelic? Call it guilt. Who could we really call an angel these days? In the past we had true saints. Now, “good” is enough to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Kind of like a “modern angel”. Ya know, good but not great - modernity in a nutshell. Okay, okay. I’ll stay. But I am making some changes around here. Of course the odd stunning song by an undeserving artist will slip through the net, but aside from my standards not slipping, I will be more likely to veer towards artists I have seen really respecting their fans and other artists. People who are supportive and involved in the community, rather than taking it all for granted. This does not mean I will only review longterm NAS artists - absolutely not. They might only have been with us for a matter of weeks or months, but in that time, I have to have seen them around a little, poking their head up to greet the other artists and generally being little modern angels, themselves.
Right, so that was an anticlimax. A big old massive random rant eventually saying absolutely zero. Well done, CC. So I am not quitting after all. I will however still be packing it all in… A rather lovely double entendre, meaning both quitting everything, and doing everything. In between my busy mixing schedule of late, I am packing in these reviews each week. Which reminds me, shouldn’t there be a review this week…? Well of course there is! I wouldn’t let you down. This is an artist I had not reviewed the last couple of weeks, for the simple reason that I was trying to be fair to the yet unreviewed. But newbies can be unreliable and ultimately can let you down. So I thought I’d go with an old faithful to perk me up and reassure my sanity. You might not recognise the artist name and therefore assume this is a new artist I have not reviewed, but all will be revealed right here, right now. Modern Angel is the brand new band from the one and only Mercury Teardrop (otherwise known as Brad Bauman) with their debut single, I’ll Quit Everything. Since its release in December, I have been quietly obsessed with the track. And Brad is one of the MOST deserving members of our community. So let’s get less quiet about it!
I’ll start by saying, I am already a huge fan of Mercury Teardrop. Anything stamped with his name is a stamp of quality. Brad doesn’t allow “filler” to make it to the mastering stage. So in late November when I heard about Brad forming a REAL BAND, I was excited. Genuinely all tingly and impatient like a well behaved teenager on a date. A well behaved teenager…? We’ll gloss over that. Modern Angel is headed by frontman and lead vocalist, Ted Johnson - the one you hear on various Mercury Teardrop songs. Ted is the force behind the melody and the chords; the song. Brad is solely in charge of all the incredible guitar work. With production from all members of the band (including The Aubreys' drummer, Malcolm, and Loverboy's keyboardist, Doug), our very own Andres Guazzelli mixed the song pretty impeccably. Shoegazing glasses at the ready! Let us cleanse. The key motif haunts us initially in the form of a distorted synth. Good distortion. A soft and analogue distortion. Its chimes float as if curiously wondering what heaven is like, as it passes by and moves on. Sedate in the best way possible. Ted then boards the moving cloud at the next stop, lays down his opium pipe, and joins in that very motif. Just at the moment Ted realises that love (or infatuation) is worth ditching the rest of what life has to offer, the cloud morphs from cumulus to stratus, allowing the entire band a stage on which to satisfy your every need. And we sink in. It is like being offered a drug that guarantees a utopian feeling, with a further guarantee of no side effects, and no dangers. Tempted? I know EYE am. Dazzled by slow-moving kaleidoscopic patterns of all colours, I close my eyes. It is the same, but softer and deeper. The drums are so present, yet effortlessly beckon and welcome the rest of the musical family. The guitar jangles are interlaced with subtler lines, weaving completeness from the ether, while the whole psychedelic combo is underpinned by the strong chromatically rising bassline, and talent is born.
It is at this moment that the waves start to part, giving way to Ted’s unique melody in the verse. This melody was however very familiar to me somehow, yet still felt original. A peculiar thing. I thought this from my first listen, and always thereon. I tossed aside the thought and lived a little more. But only now do I realise what it is… 18 years ago I wrote and recorded a song called Hairspray. It was never released. Nothing of mine was ever released until 2020. The melody is almost identical. And even in the same key! This is by no means a theft trial, but just an observation. There is no way on Earth that Ted could have heard my old track. I am just so happy to hear that we think along the same lines. I am also comfortable, confident, content and honest enough to admit that Modern Angel’s song is far superior to my silly old track.
It is the details in the song that make it truly special. Touches of robotic autotune within the otherwise pure vocal. Gorgeous yet subtle soft string synth swells. Heavily determined runs of the wind chimes. It is just full of what NAS member Rich Allen likes to call “Easter Eggs”. And we both love that particular brand of Easter egg. Speaking of which, has anyone else noticed they are already selling Easter eggs in shops…? It’s like saying, “Life’s too long. Hurry up, give us your money and die!” - I digress. Although modernity needs to take a leaf out of Brad’s little book of patience. (we’re back) Later on in the song, the band gets a little more forthright with a sound that is quite reminiscent of Oasis’s last and underrated album, but also reminds me of when our very own Ed Eagle rocks the joint. There are also perhaps elements of one of my favourite modern rock bands: Royal Blood. And even Doves at times. The whole sound to me is very English. Which is only half surprising, considering they’re from Canada. Or as I call it: Canadia. I always think of Canadians as being half American and half English.
To me, this is Mercury Teardrop in band form - maybe with more rock and less 80s synth. And for me, it doesn’t get much better than Modern Angel. Mercury Teardrop has always had a tendency to make long songs. And when I say long, I mean you could go away for the weekend and when you come back it might still be playing. Jokes aside though, I have always been in awe of Brad’s length. Gosh, no, let me rephrase that. What I mean is, he usually makes songs long for a reason. They are long because they need to be. I’ll Quit Everything, however, had no reason to be long, which Ted evidently realised. Hence it coming in at a little over 3 minutes - you all know I’m a fan of songs being the length they should be, rather than conforming to “song length”, or long for the sake of being long.
Phew, that was lengthy! (hopefully not for the sake of length)
I would be honoured if someone were to form a band called This Utopian Feeling. Then quit.
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