In the final instalment about this year’s sadly doomed and cancelled Eurovision, and to give every artist equal antagonism, as the home nation song and the Big 5 avoided scrutiny as the only songs not in the two semi-finals (which you can read about here and here for a more in depth roasting), the 2020 trilogy will end with The Soundshark running through and ranking every Eurovision entry this year, in order from least favorable, to the crème de la crème. Let this serve as a statement on ultimately who I thought should’ve won this year.
In continuation of a fantasy booking scenario, where the 65th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest survived the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the hope of providing some light entertainment in these troubling times, The Soundshark presents the second semi-final of the already pre-planned brackets (while also abiding by an improvised and hybrid set of drinking rules), to fulfil the scenario of a potential grand final. Remember, this is all purely personal opinions and light humour, so nothing is meant to offend. Just think of me as a less funny Graham Norton or Sir Terry Wogan. Or just less funny. With fun in mind, this is how the second semi-final played out, quickly going over the drinking rules again, in case you wish to play along or had forgotten them.
On the 18th March, the world lost one of its landmark calendar moments of unity through music, when for the first time in its 64-year tenure, the Eurovision Song Contest was cancelled, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eurovision has now scheduled something in place of the original contest, honouring those who were originally supposed to be participating. But there is still part, well, of myself, that yearns for the original broadcast and format to play out in a fantasy scenario, that admittedly got out of hand. In the means of providing some light entertainment in these troubling times, The Soundshark sat through both semi-finals of the already pre-planned brackets (while also abiding by an improvised and hybrid set of drinking rules) and chose a set of 10 finalists from each, to fulfil the scenario of a potential grand final. This is all purely personal opinions and light humour, so nothing is meant to offend. This is all meant to be in the name of fun, so I always tend to go into this blind, with almost zero prior knowledge of what I’m about to hear. Just think of me as a less funny Graham Norton or Sir Terry Wogan. With fun in mind, here’s how Semi Final 1 played out, first explaining the drinking rules, in case you wish to play along and endure as well.
If you ever had any doubt that the nostalgia trend is absolutely back in full effect, as last decade touched upon lifting so many influences from the 80’s, this decade seemed dead set on reliving the 90’s, that abhorrent haircuts, tasteless clothing, and otherwise obsolete mediums are all the rage once more. Arguably, as much as the 90’s were a confusing and surreal decade in our lifetimes, it was an incredibly underrated decade in musical innovation. Crazily, dance music was scarcely dubbed dance music until the turn of the 90’s, despite music specifically recorded for the intended purpose to dance to existing for generations before that, going under numerous guises and evolutions. And in the grand spirit of that innovation, the very nature of dance music underwent such a radical transformation in that time period, that began with Eurodance and acid house, and ended with trance. Sticking with Eurodance, the treasure trove of that brief spell of musical history, is still unearthing rock solid tracks that the world had forgotten or had no idea existed, which brings us to Leila K’s Electric. A great success in Europe, and greater success in her native Sweden, the Moroccan-born singer and rapper resembled somewhat a solo Salt-n-Pepa for the rave generation, and Electric coursed with the kind of attitude and energy, that made it as inspiring as it was incendiary. Pulse-pounding though it still may be, Electric sounds very much a product of its time, approaching a quarter century in age and dated by its now primitive production package. Enter fellow Swede, and electro-pop anarchist Rein.
Joanna Reinikainen, better known by her stage name, exploded into the public eye in 2016, with her no apologies, take no prisoners fusion of pop, electro-punk, industrial and EBM, teeming with sociopolitical confrontation and fury at global injustices. In such a short space and time, she’s released two EPs, a handful of singles, made additional guest vocal appearances and been nominated for awards in her homeland. She even found the time to refuse to open for Marilyn Manson in that time frame. Her deeply addictive and frenetic assault of musical styles, along with Electric’s clarion call of unity, make her the prime candidate, to revitalise and empathise the vigour of this joyous gem from Scandinavia’s pop vaults. From the inset, there’s certainly plenty that embodies and mirrors the original, from the imposing buzz of the vocoder, the unwavering swagger in every syllable, even down to leaving Leila K’s name in the lyrics untouched, and the lush layering of vocal melodies at the song’s crescendo. The music video even bears a handful of similarities to its predecessor, despite the stark contrast between the cold walls of industry and the bright illuminations against woodland. It’s Rein’s distorted, driving waves of dissonance that ultimately begin to shift towards the version to call her own. The continuous kinetics of the techno arpeggio that the original gently builds itself around, is instead brought into motion by an aggressive pumping bassline, undulating as hard as putting fists to flesh, interspersed with ungodly screeches of synth. The verses of rapid-fire rap possesses so much more bite here, that extra degree of fire tremendous in spurring on listeners to invest in the song’s message. But the entire tone of the song isn’t all certifiably vicious, as Rein still retains the chorus’ soul-packed hook, taking on the delivery herself to demonstrate further dexterity in her already impressive vocal arsenal, alongside the same uplifting pads nestled within from the original, and the bassline dialled down into a throbbing disco-esque rhythm Giorgio Moroder would be proud of.
Everything summates to a pop vessel, masquerading as a industrial strength wrecking ball but with more than an ounce of humanity in its approach, and if this doesn’t serve as the perfect entrance to Rein’s expanding realm of electro-punk antagonism, dive into her earlier work and start taking notes, as this outstandingly talented lady is only going to kick more and more doors down.
Electric is out now available for purchase at all reputable retailers and on all major streaming platforms. All Rein apparel and merchandise can be found on her page here, and keep an eye out for shows hopefully in a country near to you.
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Without wanting to cast bull-china shop aspersions off the bat, dealing with emotional abuse is more often than not, a difficult ordeal for those affected, but it’s a far more common place subject matter in music than most realise. Arguably the most famous song on the premise, Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, a classic, near four minute disco romp, detailing the breakdown of an abusive relationship an unknown female character found herself in before finding the strength within herself to leave the perpetrator, is considered timeless as no doubt its chorus will be forever etched on the walls of the musical Pantheon. Its optimistic tones and grandeur made this such an uplifting listen, that in some respects, it could be considered easy to forget the subject matter entirely. Just as famous an example, widely acknowledged to be one of the most misinterpreted songs ever, is The Police’s Every Breath You Take, a portrayal of a stalker-type obsessive whom claims ownership over their past lover, never allowing them to move on. The calm, soothing demeanour of its music, along with the misconstrued lyrics of Sting’s impassioned croon has oft been taken as to be a love song for decades, before being publicly debunked by the Police frontman himself. In that respect, thank goodness for pop artists of the new millennium, such as Ke$ha, whose titanic but transparent ballad Praying released this year, brought to life the torment and nightmares faced under her captive producer, after arduous legal proceedings and years in the media spotlight for this reason alone. While currently building a loyal following of his own, Montreal pop sensation Randay is taking the same page from his contemporaries and making the message loud and clear, as well as highlighting another tale of emotional abuse in the process.
Putting aside the lyrical content for just a moment, Manipulation serves as an impeccably produced electronic pop number that teases crossovers into the EDM and electronic house forays, all to give his sultry charm room to soar. Repeatedly plucked guitar chords, with a very marginal overdub of synth open up the song, give it a cooling ambience, a calm mood and a steady tempo, as we then phase shift into the song’s main body. Enter a realm of pounding bass pulse, dampened hand claps and understated but beautifully layered synth harmonies that bulk out an otherwise minimalist atmosphere, that all lend themselves to Randay’s honeyed tone marvellously. There’s a small touch of hi-hat added to the mix as the verse progresses and a slight delay on the vocals, on which the echo sounds particularly effective against the beat, utilising the less-is-more approach well on a primarily vocal-heavy song. However it is at the chorus where Manipulation is at its strongest. Where once Randay had a lot of vocal processing on previous tracks, stripping the first chorus down to almost entirely vocals, bar delay and some minor ambient synth, has really given his voice a chance to shine on its own merits and it makes the chorus and its hook all the more memorable for it. Quickly building up the drop underneath the vocals, slyly introducing an acoustic guitar amongst the claps and keys, brings a short rush of excitement as you feel a gear shift about to transpire. But while the music doesn’t quite burst with the bombast you would expect from a modern dancefloor filler, the subdued nature of the drop actually fits really well with the overall tone of the song, whilst still having a beat and a bassline for even the most casual of club goers to move to. Throughout, there are little tweaks, production effects and instrumental additions so subtle, you’ll barely notice them at first, that make the song feel all the more complete, and there are more moments along the way where Randay’s vocal talents are isolated but ultimately accentuated as a result of intentional songwriting. Manipulation’s climax brings that memorable chorus hook against the beats, and Randay delivers it with such authority and empowerment, perhaps channeling an inner Gloria of his own, that you begin to realise the potential star power once the music retracts and his voice is left once more on its own, besides the thumping of bass and a melancholic but deeply fulfilling piano chime to close.
Sadly, I was informed that shortly after this song was written, Randay found himself on the receiving end of his own words, and I do extend my sincerest best wishes to him, and hope that he has found peace and closure from such terrible circumstances. But let that take nothing away from what he is capable of vocally, and his ear for piecing together pop music with a punch. Randay has all the tools necessary to become a breakout star and the blossoming process is well under way with the advent of Manipulation; a smartly produced, electronic dancefloor curiosity. with equal parts passion to attitude and a rightful claim for a spotlight to call his own.
Randay is soon to release a brand new track in the coming weeks, having just entered the studio to record vocals for Manipulation’s follow-up. A second album is also due to be announced at some stage in the near future. For everything else currently out including his first album Renaissance and recent remixes of Manipulation, you can find them all at most respectable music retailers.
Can’t get enough of him? Then here’s some social media links to follow for you:
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And one more thing, if you do feel you are in a place where you feel like there is no escape or nobody to talk to, and you can’t channel your inner Gloria Gaynor, then I urge you to call whomever your local crime line, victim support or mental health charity is. Be brave. The Soundshark has faith in you. You can do it. You can get through this.
A few months ago, a statement was issued on this site about the creative force behind Tiny Giant and that they are likely to be one of the most exciting acts to keep an eye on in 2016. That was solely based on two tracks on Soundcloud, with no prior release date, nor word of a forthcoming release, EP or album. Their forte is the melding of a mesmerising dream-pop haze à la Goldfrapp and a titanic progressive rock crunch; a near-unique pairing in a musical climate so vast and so adverse to standing out, that those tuned in, numbers growing daily, have awaited some form of release with bated breath. For those personnel, that wait has come to an end and if you are just joining us on the official maiden voyage of Tiny Giant, your timing couldn’t have been more impeccable.
Since the beginning of this year, the impression was given that Seeing Everything As Though It Is Real and Heavy Love may have been first for a public release, as the very first introductory tracks to this terrific musical partnership and as they have been now circulating Soundcloud for the best part of half a year. Come this month, that plan has changed as two brand new tracks have surfaced and continue to raise the bar for what is to come from the London duo. While Joely has been pushed as the headline act of the single, both sides Joely and How are equally important and enrapturing when it comes to distilling down the essence of Tiny Giant, and thus focus will be placed upon both of them.
Where Seeing Everything… invoked that initial Goldfrapp comparison, Joely certainly completes it. Starting with what sounds like kick drums submerged under the ocean, a continual bright chord of synth keys raises the beat to the surface, igniting a glorious burst of synth, a near angelic level of vocals and if you listen carefully, a terrifyingly distorted wall of guitar that somehow slots perfectly in place into this seemingly innocent pop presentation. The burst is soon hushed to just the beat, the warm buzz of the keys and vocals, which although gentile and soothing, have a confidence worthy of the grandiose of the music backing it. Honestly, there is a grace to Chloe’s voice that not only exposes her own musical merits, but the merits of the compositions she brings to life. There are still traces of a trance-like state these verses can bring, but is not as potent as either of its predecessors were in doing so. Instead, that seems swapped for an overall feeling of bliss and rapture that the tone of the track brings together. As verses progress, additional cymbals and beats are added to the percussion and the guitar is allowed a full force bellow, highlighting the greater depth of their songwriting arsenal. No doubt, Joely is a beautifully composed, premier standard of pop music, more than worthy of radio rotation and again, brings attention to the incredible talents of Chloe Alper and Mat Collis. But it is perhaps flipside How, that elevates Tiny Giant from a mere airplay curiosity to a full-blown stereo juggernaut.
Ask yourself. Have you ever heard the vocal talents of any female artist front a post-rock style band, or track at a push? This isn’t of course a mutually exclusive event, but Chloe may be the very first I’ve encountered. Wailing guitars supersede the triumphant synth we saw beforehand, shifting the tone to a more melodic, but certifiably more melancholic one. Drums gather pace, the clattering of the snare injecting an urgency into the music the complete opposite to Joely’s sky-gazing demeanour while vocals take a siren’s approach to luring you into listening. The passage of Chloe’s notes held is utterly gorgeous, making that contrast between her and the drums crashing from behind a deeply satisfying experience. An underlay of those same notes sit below the verse as vocals weave their tale, drums refusing to let up which both adds a layer of the fantastical and the ominous in the build up to the chorus. The pay-off in which is something truly spectacular. An effects-loaded tremolo is nothing new in post-rock, but it’s the accompaniment of drums being pounded into the ground and the echoes of a serene female songstress that make the magnitude of this moment far greater than words can paint a picture of. As How progresses further, bass enters in an enormous fashion, giving the track an unexpected groove and swagger you could give a fan club and a jacket to, as well as meddling with the time signature a tad, something previously undisclosed from the duo’s output so far. It all lends itself to the track’s climax; a titanic thrashing of guitar, bass and drums, all with the refrain of ‘How do you do it?’ cried over the volume and density of the final sound attack.
There is a lot that goes on in the three and a half minutes of How to cover completely and absolutely, but to stand side by side with Joely, it makes this marvel of single that more compelling to onlookers. This demonstrates Tiny Giant’s agenda perfectly, granted in two distinct flavours, the ability to transition from a immaculately produced soul-charged pop single with atmospheric undertones, to a behemoth of guitar-fronted brute strength backed by beats that could pulverise your bones into dust. Perhaps the correct summation of their namesake really. I implore you. Keep Tiny Giant under careful watch. Their talent alone is worth its weight in gold, but with twists and turns rapidly emerging from the song library they are crafting, you need not another reason to believe why they are becoming one of the most exciting bands of 2016.
Joely/How is available now at all good respectable music retailers, as word on an upcoming full-length release or EP is still rather hush-hush. For now. All other songs, while not yet available, can be located on the Tiny Giant Soundcloud page for your listening pleasure. They are also tentatively playing live dates at the moment, but go book them so they get greater exposure and all that jazz.
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So the saying goes that you’re never supposed to meet your heroes. Why that is the actual case or anyone presumes they will only disappoint you, seems rather far-fetched if you ask me. Then again, I’ve done a pretty good job of not really meeting any of my heroes thus far. Probably because half of them are dead. The other half I think I’d require some of sort fate-like chance encounter to even get near. Perhaps somewhat because I can come across as shy and undeniably awkward. Musicians certainly seem to have that effect on me. Due to the sheer number of bands and musicians I actually like, I could say that I have a lot of heroes I haven’t met. I only ended up meeting The Qemists because I can jump high in crowded spaces and James Rushent from Does It Offend You Yeah? because my friends pushed me over towards where he was standing. Just to give you an indicator. But what about the opposite effect? What about when your heroes accidentally end up meeting you? I can safely say overwhelming happiness and the odd inhuman sounding noise were protocol on that day. So goes how the tale of this Tiny Giant piece came into being.
The brainchild of former Pure Reason Revolution vocalist and current touring guitarist for Charlie XCX, Chloe Alper, and drummer, sound engineer, producer and all-round musical maestro Mat Collis, Tiny Giant’s call-to-arms is a clash between often soothing hypnotic ambience and ground-pounding instrumental punches. In short, like those floating dreams you have, only with the gods themselves hurling boulders in your direction at the same time. Most recent single Seeing Everything As Though It Is Real certainly implies as such, building momentum with a minute and a half’s worth of ethereal string-tinged cloud-gazing. Through out, glimmers and teases of an angelic refrain, invoking the spirit of Seventh Tree-era Goldfrapp, call out in the distance, showcasing one such area of the impressive vocal dexterity of Chloe if unfamiliar with her previous work. Ambience is left to form its own spellbinding drone, a little on the Eno side of affairs, leading into a moment’s cold chill of guitar right before a gigantic shift in tone. That cold chill remains a constant presence but ends up near muted, as the size and volume of cannon-force bass overlays and overpowers the previous serene setting, leaving drums that can match the ferocity and brute strength of the sound, and the soulful sirenesque demeanour of Chloe’s vocals for company. Whether the vocals sit in hushed climates, or revel in the carnage between guitar and drums, there’s no denying they are an object of versatile beauty and a phenomenal centrepiece to a truly involving composition. One titanic Tom Morello-inspired groove and final chorus later, and you’re left with a lot to digest. Tiny Giant are offering a unique take on a quiet-loud dynamic shift, forcibly smashing together dream-pop and progressive rock into an intriguing and strangely alluring sonic sculpture. The sheer potential and unpredictability of this combination, let alone the incredible talents of both musicians involved, can only ensure that Tiny Giant sit firmly on the horizon as one of the most creative and exciting projects to watch out for this year.
There is yet to be a release date for either of the two tracks, Seeing Everything As Though It Is Real and Heavy Love, which can be found on Chloe’s Soundcloud page, but there is a full-length album believed to be in progress, with a presumed 2016 release date pencilled in. Keep an eye on it. Only good can come of this.
In the mean time, you can give them a virtual hug right here:
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