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.
Charles stares at the sun…
The wait is over. It finally happened. We hoped, we prayed. We were ready for disappointment. But we always quietly had our fingers crossed. What it is is, Summer. England is not known for sun. Not to foreigners. It is known for miserable rain (as opposed to lighthearted upbeat rain), despite not really having that much rain these days. Well, of course I speak only of London, for that is all I know. I’m sure up north is as grim as ever. But then again, maybe I’m doing what the foreigners do. Assuming, due to what people say. Maybe I’m wrong. Let’s check. Today in London it’s sunny and 26 degrees. Huh! Turns out it’s exactly the same up north! So there ya go. Completely wrong, due to my assumption, based on very little. What’s that sound…? Sounds like a chuckle… It seems to be coming from the southern states of the Ewe Ess of Aye. Now look, I know 26 degrees is not a great deal to you lot - positively chilly, no doubt! But we in mainland Europe don’t live on the edge of a desert (or even indeed in the middle of one). Besides, it did reach 30 over the weekend in London. Which was enough to make me feel very heavy indeed. But good lord, I enjoyed it. We Britonians never know what we’re going to get. Could be chilly and wet and windy. Could be dangerously high temperatures with sun so strong it looks more like Arizona than Hyde Park. Grass bleached to dust. But despite all the worry and concern over climate change, we English always hope to get burnt fast. It is terribly childish and incredibly unsophisticated (not to mention downright stupid), I will admit. But it is the English way. Quick! Sun’s out! Flip-flops at the ready! Let that proud belly hang, flop and wobble to the beat of one’s own personal step. I’m too sexy for my shirt, too sexy for my shirt, too sexy it hurts. I mean, it HURTS! It is painful to look at. But, this is the nature of these people. To get toasted, and not give a tan about what others will have to look at. One might say they are blinded by the sun… I’m not really selling the place, am I… The good thing is, God invented sunglasses. And if you get ones dark enough (you know, those ones more suitable for viewing a rare solar eclipse) you won’t have to see all this ghastly stuff. Then you can concentrate on your OWN tan (and on not walking into lampposts or passing cars - no matter how amusing this might be to the other bellies).
Some of you might be wondering why I’m talking about Summer when it’s Winter. These would be the people who have really lost track of time, or who have simply lost the plot entirely. Or… they might simply be in the Southern Hemisphere? What’s it like down there? Chilly…? Hah!! Sorry, we English don’t often get the chance to brag about weather. But coming back to the reality of the Northern Hemisphere (no offence to you southerners), European countries like Italy and Spain have the reliably comforting knowledge that once the Summer starts, it will continue in this exact vein for months. The whole duration of Summer. While this idea might relax most of you, it might bore the rest of you. The notion that every day will look and feel exactly the same, day after day, week after week, month after month. Where’s the fun in THAT?? In recent years, England has been doing its very best impersonation of Egypt, in terms of Summer climate. But it used to be very much “cross your fingers, don’t get your hopes up”. And despite the predictable dreary washout of a season, we would always be disappointed, and always moan about it - “Bloody England. Bloody weather. Bloody rain”. But we are not alone. Shall we migrate northwards? Let’s do just that. To Scandinavia, no less! Or, Norway in particular. In England, we have an expression/phrase/term: April Weather. You may or may not be familiar with this. It means that it can’t make up its mind. One minute it’s sunny, the next it’s rainy etc. THIS is what Norwegians are used to in Summer. At least traditionally. They do get a Summer, but chopped up into bits, and interspersed with a crappy Spring. It’s like taking a perfectly good steak, and shredding it, then tossing in some sour cabbage. Technically you’re eating a steak, but it’s really not very satisfying and not what was intended. No fair. I used to envy Europe’s Summers. Not anymore. I’ll take the dangling bellies at a pinch, as it were.
And so, I bring you two souls (no, not Ed Corrado) from Norwegia - Norway Norway: mah na mah na (for those who might recollect the terrible 1997 tune). Please welcome, Todd & Karen! Their brand new single encapsulates precisely what makes a Norwegian Summer so “special”. And they do it in the cutest, fondest way. I can’t tell you if these two are husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, brother and sister or just good friends. Or even simply musical acquaintances. My powers of research have so totally failed me this week, but I quite enjoy not knowing. So I will be calling them a twosome, for that is what they are - there are two of them. Todd is in fact Øyvind Berge, while Ina Verdi-Ruckstuhl is quietly playing the part of Karen. And together, this twosome makes a sound so utterly pure and so uncannily late 60s/early 70s, it’s impossible not to believe their songs aren’t unearthed original recordings from the time. This goes for their latest offering, and most of their back catalogue. Such charm! But this particular song brings something warmer. More heartfelt. To a certain extent it brings the emotion and sound of the M*A*S*H theme tune. The cheerfully named Suicide Is Painless. Both songs sound bright, warm and cosy. And yet both songs ultimately have rather depressing lyrics. While the theme tune is truly heartbreaking, Todd & Karen bring humour. My kind of humour. Not “here’s a good one, you’ll like this” kind of humour - can’t stand that kind of thing in music (or in life) - but witty remarks on simple life, in being able to laugh at what would normally make people feel low. If you don’t laugh, you will drown. It’s a good way of getting through bad things. Even minor things like the weather.
Our beautiful little wandering journey in the sunshine starts with layered acoustic guitars lightly swinging and swaying like branches in the breeze. It is just enough time for Ina to have a sip of room temperature water (good for the throat) and pick up her lyrics sheet. She begins. It is pure. So completely pure. So innocent. The only similar sounding voice I can think of is Nataly Dawn from Pomplamoose. I BELIEVE Ina’s vocal is double-tracked (sound-wise), but the only reason I doubt this is because it’s just so perfectly done. I never hear two voices at any time. I just hear “that double-tracked sound” - the kind The Beatles used on SO many songs. The chords are folk, but also with notes of old wartime songs and even hints of jazz. This retains the comfortable characteristic of much folk, but adds subtle interest throughout. One of my favourite moments comes after verse two. The introduction of a clean and clear, warm piano. Just like those uprights you hear in the recordings of the 60s. This comes exactly 1 minute in, and it somehow just opens up the entire piece with two-note chords descending into the following section. And - I don’t often say this - there is a mistake. A bum note. God, Charles, why on Earth would you mention this in a review of their new song. Because it adds so much charm. Because I LOVE that it is there! Because I actually believe the song is better for it being there! I really can’t explain, but there is just too much perfection in music these days. Too much flow. It’s a little bit like the Italian Summer - endless perfection. But what is wrong with endless perfection? It’s perfectly endless. Like God flicked the Summer switch and left it to run. It gets dull. I miss the unpredictable. I miss the human element in music. Humans make mistakes. Recording and mixing technology used to have limits. Sometimes the unintentional is the charm. Early Beatle recordings you can hear Ringo’s kick drum pedal squeaking. It reminds you that it is being played by a person. It makes you think of Ringo’s face, trembling under the weight of that great big hooter. Otherwise it is just a faceless kick drum. So yes. Praise be for that tiny minor duff note. Thank you, Todd & Karen, for not correcting it.
The following section is where Ina politely takes her seat, and Øyvind takes his place at the microphone. He sounds uncannily like Colin Blunstone from The Zombies, with strong notes of Graham Coxon from Blur. The most perfectly composed guitar sideline accompanies him. And the drums take his place with the simplest of snare fills. But the SOUND of this snare. Is it high fidelity, compressed to buggery, with enough bite to slice your head off? No! It is simply there. It is medium loud and clear and left alone. It has space. It sounds like an old medium-tuned drum with loose snares. And Ina takes her place with the piano, guitars, drums and light bass. It all works together to make this perfectly authentic song that was APPARENTLY not recorded in 1968. The whole thing closes with a music box like the twinkling stars in the clear night’s sky. On first listen, this song may sound extremely simple. But once having heard it properly with headphones several times, I challenge you as an artist to make such a sound. I don’t think EYE could.
Halfway through writing this, the sun was replaced by a thunderstorm. I didn’t mind. A Norwegian might. Nay: a Norwegian WOULD.
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