𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗹𝘆’𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗿 - this week: Over - Mal Fantôme
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.
𝙊𝙫𝙚𝙧 - 𝙈𝙖𝙡 𝙁𝙖𝙣𝙩𝙤̂𝙢𝙚
Charles shuts out the distractions…
You know what I can’t stand about the world, particularly these days…? Almost everything. I read a newspaper, open the door to the internet, walk down the street, and almost everything appalls me. Or at least makes me sigh. People are particularly awful, with their lack of manners, lack of care, and lack of just about anything that should separate us from wild animals. People are pigs, buildings are ugly, the economy is shot, politics is a joke, and it feels like all those masks we religiously wore have not been removed, but simply been placed higher up above the nose. People are seemingly blind to it all. Blind to their own piggishness, but also blind to the horror that surrounds them. Sure, there are pockets of niceness hither and thither, but one has to hunt, or by chance stumble on something so pure and simple and good, that it genuinely excites us, due to its rarity. Because of this, I find myself sheltering. Like old people do, oh so naturally, as each decade gallops with increasing speed. But I am not old. I shouldn’t be doing this. I shouldn’t have to do this. You might be thinking this is a depressing way to start what could have been a perfectly pleasant weekly read, but I rarely get the chance to rant. The New Artist Spotlight is a nice place. A good place. A friendly village through which we wander on a daily basis. We greet people we know well, and we nod and smile to the people we don’t. You will of course get the odd selfish little devil who wants to spoil it for everyone, but they’re shot on sight. Or at least dealt with in a manner conforming with the modern way. This might involve being overly polite and asking them to be reasonable, but with the inevitable failure of the “softly-softly” approach, they eventually find themselves walking the plank. We’re not vicious, we are just protecting the good guys while fighting the pirates. Behind the scenes, we moderators have to deal with far more than you might imagine, behind closed doors.
But what about when we aren’t perusing the delights of the NAS? It’s real world time. Then it all dawns on you once more. The real world is an ugly place. So the New Artist Spotlight is therefore a place of shelter. A sanctuary. But what does it bring most? Music. And music is the ultimate shelter. Music through headphones is something special. Speakers have their place, but headphones make it exceedingly personal. They force the outside world to shut down or pause for the duration. I watched Sleeping Beauty on Sunday evening. Not the apparently terrible 2011 Sleeping Beauty, and not the apparently even worse 2014 Sleeping Beauty - the modern obsession with remakes due to lack of imagination - but Disney’s 1959 Sleeping Beauty. Yes, I am aware I am not 8 years old, but bear with me. Being older than 8, I was able to take a different pleasure from it. I marvelled at the animation and stunning scenery of every shot. The sweetness and simplicity of it all. I am sure it was rare in 1959, but it is totally unheard of now; that sweetness and simplicity. You see, I am sure I am not alone in dreaming of a beautiful life, much in the same way that children dream of fairytales. The difference being that only one of those is possible. The other thing I loved about the film was when (spoiler alert) the three fairies put the town to sleep. I found it so peaceful. All distractions cast aside in this breathtaking moment. THIS is what music through headphones is to me. The world sleeps or freezes while I have my moment. Total immersion. Something that - for me - only music can do.
So when I discovered an artist that has only been with the NAS for a month, I was obviously not very familiar with their music. I pressed play. I liked. I delved deeper into the artist and found myself listening to an album from last year called Volcano. I sat with headphones, and listened. It became part of me. It became my consciousness. I forgot what I was doing. I forgot that I was searching for what to review. Without realising, I had found my answer. Mal Fantôme was to be my new shelter. My ultimate immersion. But despite the album really grabbing me, I thought I would stay current for the sake of newness. And it just so happens that the Canadian band have a brand new single released just a few days ago. What luck! I would however strongly suggest that you not only listen to this new track, but also let yourself be enveloped by the eruption that is Volcano.
The song is called Over. It brings the sounds of Interpol and Doves (a thoroughly underrated band), but morphs it into a new era of oomphy original rock. Charles is the main man here. No, not me. Another Charles. No, not the King. Another Charles. Charles-Edouard Boivin is behind lead vocals and guitars. Looks French, dunnit. Well, so is their name. Therefore we’re looking at French Canada then. Québec, to be precise. Jacques de Varennes (bass) and Ike (drums) complete the trio. Just Ike - he has no surname (or at least none that I could find). The simple yet effective premise of the song’s lyrics is to live in the moment. To not be caught up in the “should I”, or the “is this wise”, but to listen to the famous sports brand’s demand: “Just Do It” - wise words. And wise words I have said many times before. Because, as the song says, that opportunity will at some point or other eventually close its doors, and in effect be over. Like Black Friday.
Do Charles, Jack and Ike crash in from beat one, like so many rock bands? They do not. They have style. They have class. They have elegance and taste. These people are not pigs. They use age to their advantage. Like a mature fine wine sipped by an experienced enjoyer. We commence with something akin to Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain (specifically Concierto de Aranjuez). It has a heavy, sun-sodden Moroccan feel about it. I am in dreamland. The not-niceness of the world is invisible to me now. But it takes the band just 30 seconds to remember its roots. It is THEN that they crash in, all guns a-blazin’. And still, Charles Imbeau’s trumpet wails (yes, another Charles)! I cannot emphasise the professionalism of this band. The only artist on the NAS that I would say is in line with them in terms of grown-up experience and “knowing what is right”, is Panem. Mal Fantôme understands not only feel, but form. Song form. Where to go high, where to go low. They realise that in order for the lead vocal to have space, something has to make way. Charles (not me or the other one) swaps his guitar for the mic, and in doing so, knocks out the trumpeter with a swing of the axe. It is in his voice that you will start to hear the clear influence of Interpol. In fact, given the nature of their music, they could be considered kings of interpolation. The inspired yet unlikely choice of trumpet as an on-and-off theme throughout the song reminds me somewhat of a song by a band that is equally unlikely to appear in this review. Coldplay. The song is called Arabesque. And it too contains lots of unexpected brassy woodwind within a great big stonking song that would otherwise contain the more usual instruments you might hear in a band’s output. I would advise listening to it if you aren’t already familiar.
I love discovering an artist that has relatively quietly been releasing sheer brilliance for years. There must be just so many artists all over the world who have so much to give, and yet we are completely unaware. Hence the point of the New Artist Spotlight. Mal Fantôme is officially my new favourite band. Or favourite new band. Whatever it is, I like them a lot. This is seriously high calibre stuff. I’d briefly like to come back to their albums. They have made two so far, with a third on the way. The music “industry” has almost entirely stripped us of albums, due to the supposed importance of playlists. While playlists are a fabulous way of discovering new music, one cannot really ever be immersed in a playlist. You can like it. You can even really enjoy it. But it cannot take over your senses like an album can. I desperately do not want “the album” to die. It is an art form of its own. A collection of singles can be a great album, but will never quite touch you like an album designed as an album. It is also far harder to make. It demands a lot more patience and attention to detail. The whole thing has to hold together as the sum of its parts. Not every song is suitable as a single. So, as much as I am “all about the song”, I am also “all about the album”. Despite not having released one yet… I urge artists to be artists. I would rather listen to an unsuccessful artist’s album, than an unsuccessful businessman’s song. Most “artists” are doing the latter. Being a businessman. Thinking what will hit. But with the improbability of reaching the top, isn’t it perhaps better to simply make great original art? The right listeners will be there for you. Not everyone in the world wants to listen to Justin Bieber and Stormzy… But while there are so many artists trying to make it in the industry, there are so many more listeners listening. There will be thousands of potential fans of your very own music. Millions, even! So don’t be afraid to be you. The artist. Long live the LP!
Oh, and one final thing: the video is absolutely thrilling, and again of the highest calibre. Probably my favourite music video of the year.
On another note, yesterday my girlfriend met the famous actor, Charles Dance. In my opinion, there can never be enough Charleses, with the knowledge that each will come from a different corner. This is mine.
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