Orphan Boy

Today in a radio broadcast from the BBC 6 Music Festival, there was a discussion going on about the difficulty of labelling bands and their music. A special mention was made, in how far for instance Newcastle bands have it easier than Manchester bands to break free from the city’s musical history.

A story Orphan Boy are only too well acquainted with: Originally from Cleethorpes and then moving to the big shmoke of Manchester, they were pegged as a “lad band” for maybe as little as the clothes they wore.

This happened to Rob Cross, Paul Smith and Chris Day right after the release of their first album “Shop Local”. Good for them that they gathered a following during their live gigs that is fiercely loyal to them and carries the lovely name of Orphanites.

They also luckily have a record company that believes in them and supports them with Concrete Recordings and the spirited Mike Concrete at the forefront. Their second album “Passion, Pain & Loyalty” was a brave venture away from guitars into simpler keyboard melodies. Oh, do they have the knack to write a song. No worries, they did get the guitars back into play but the music had got much more varied.

Did Orphan Boy want to give up? Yes, they did. Why did other bands become successful, why were record companies not really bothered? Thankfully for us, they kept at it, now more determined than ever.

So, not only, one of their songs went viral online over Christmas – 2015 will be the year of a new album, new single, gigs and all.

And on the 14th of March is the launch of the single “Beats Like Distant Tides” from the forthcoming album “Coastal Tones” at The Ruby Lounge in Manchester. The single will be released on March 23rd 2015, the album is to follow in April.

Now, if you cannot make it there, neither can I (sigh) but have a gander and listen here:

Here’s the video that went viral (used by Grimsby Town FC for their Christmas message) and it is truly sweet, as is the song.


Me, I actually love Orphan Boy’s “Pop song”:

And of course here’s the new single “Beats Like Distant Tides”:

You find Orphan Boy at their website: www.orphan-boy.com and on Facebook and Twitter and all the music places and on the 14th of March at The Ruby Lounge.

Neal Hoffmann (Amphibic)

When I ventured out into the rain this afternoon, I caught soundbites of the neighbour’s daughter happily singing along to a karaoke backtrack in that kind of vocal that suits the casting shows but not necessarily the singer. She thinks, she is going to be a star. Bless her. I try not to sound too sarcastic but it does take a lot more than that, and luck.

True, in all unfairness, it only takes luck for some. And those who put in a lot of work, talent, craftmanship, go without.

I wish this world would be a better place. Ah, there’s no business like show business…

A lot of work, talent, craftmanship and general nice guyness to boot to me also means: Neal Hoffmann.

Neal Hoffman, who had a band called Amphibic, went solo and now releases under Amphibic Records. He is a multilingual (I am still awestruck) singer, songwriter, musician (blogger, Twitterer, overall communicator) from London.

Starting out with well-crafted indie-pop, there is lately so much more in his music still: Profound lyrics, string arrangements, piano, bassoon, an element of chamber-pop as he calls it. Words cannot bring across what music can, so here goes:

He is diligently working away on a new album and I am pretty sure, it is going to be a jewel.

May I introduce you to a song of his? (This is a difficult subject – the massacre in Norway – that he deals with sensitively, touchingly and gracefully).

And a glimpse of Neal Hoffmann performing?

You may surely want to know more now and you will find Neal Hoffmann in a lot of places. Gigging or online at https://amphibic.wordpress.com

The Weekend People

If music comes my way that says “from Melbourne, Australia” I am, admittedly – not very objectively – already raising thumbs. This very cauldron of great music has cooked up another great band – The Weekend People.

They describe themselves as such: Alt-country tinged indie rock swagger. Somewhat unhinged live performances. Nice lyrics, if a little dark at times.

Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

Originally The Weekend People were just Mark Woodward (no relation to Jay who features in this blog, too) and Nicholas Roy in the mid-2000s already. In the years since then The Weekend People have evolved and shapeshifter around Mark Woodward and now consist of:

Mark Woodward on guitars and vocals, Sarah Holmes on bass, Psam Parsons on guitars and keyboards, Ryan Scoble on drums.

You want boxes? I usually refrain from them but the following artists are liked by  The Weekend People: Arcade Fire, Anna Calvi, Bright Eyes, The Drones, Conor Oberst, The National.

Still sounds perfect? Woman, get to the point, where are the tunes?

Right so, they have released their EP Stolen Cars, available in all the usual places.  They have a website which is a wee bit neglected, so you better check them out on Facebook. Live performances in Europe? We can’t wait!

And now here’s some music:

The dirty rocking “Hiding”

And the title track of their album: “Stolen Cars”, with a nice video to boot:

Now, mark my words, you won’t regret to lend them an ear!

Sharon van Etten

What on earth can I say about Sharon van Etten that she has not divulged in interviews (to the point that I wanted to throttle her interviewer, poking on when she was already in tears) or, of course, first and foremost, in her music.

Multi-instrumentalist, power-voiced Sharon has a knack for writing music, especially harmonies and then come the lyrics. Lyrics that tell of lost love, painful relationships, giving up herself, sacrificing herself, hit you, once you listen in as if you had a choice.

Sharon has no choice either: She must write it down, she must sing it, she must perform it as it is cathartic to her. However, lately, trouble thing of the past, it has become difficult at times to relive these overpowering experiences every night on stage.
Hence the playful banter with the audience! Thankfully she can rely on her amazing band to back her up, to pick her up, being fine-tuned not only to her music but to the whole Sharon.



Her band includes musicians who are masters of their craft:

Heather Woods Broderick (plays guitar, bass, keyboards, piano, flute, cello and sings backup and harmony). She is also a solo artist (second album: “Glider”) and works with her brother Peter Broderick (together they were for instance in “Efterklang”).

Doug Keith, originally bassist, but now plays guitar and harmonium as well.  He hails from punk and rock bands and released solo albums. The latest one was “Pony” where he is joined by Heather Woods Broderick, Zeke Hutchins (earlier drummer, now manager), Adam Granduciel and J. Mascis, no less.

Darren Jessee is the fairly new drummer with the band and a brilliant one on top of that. He also drums for Ben Folds Five and his own band Hotel Lights.

Brad Cook adds warm and precise sound with his bass. He also is part of the band Megafaun.

During the course of four albums, Sharon van Etten has gone through first proper album, first band, first big sound and first total control over album (and some fine guest musicians that include Marisa Anderson who also toured with her and Dave Hartley from Nightlands and The War on Drugs). Last month a new song was released that some of you might already have heard if you had the fortune to see her and the band live: “I don’t want to let you down“.

There will be more tour dates, so no excuses there. I am particularly looking forward to her playing so close to home to me in Liège, on the the of April 2015. This time round I might not only succumb to the brand new “Sharon van Halen” t-shirt but finally to the tissue baggie with her name on it…(yes, I might need it, nerve-tingling performances those are).

May I also draw your attention to an interview that I did with Sharon van Etten last November (yep, the booming voice is mine, the well-spoken melodious one of course is Sharon’s.)

And here’s the video for “Your love is killing me” directed by Sean Durkin featuring Carla Juri.