Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

Missy Higgins – On a Clear Night

I don’t know what I’ve done. Or if I like what I’ve begun.

Those are the first lines that greet your ears on Missy Higgins’ second album On a Clear Night. And already, I like what’s begun. I love these lyrics. I love these songs. I love this album.

Where I Stood is written in Missy’s classic style drawing at all your heartstrings. There’s been discussion as to whether the story that’s being told is that of a relationship that’s broken up, or if it’s a bit more complex and is actually about giving a child up for adoption. Lyrics such as “She will love you more than I could/She who dares to stand where I stood” leave it entirely up to your own interpretation. It’s the ambiguity in Missy’s craftsmanship that I love. Her songs rarely tell a straight forward story. There are always lines that mean different things to different listeners – making each song even more personal.

Missy gets her guitar out in 100 Round the Bends. It’s upbeat for Missy. I’m struggling to find a remotely depressing lyric in it. Admittedly, it’s pretty clear that Missy was, perhaps, in a better place when she wrote this album. Songs like this would never have fitted in on her debut album. It’s just too… happy. Yes, the lyrics progress to sing about how this great relationship failed and hence the happiness ends. But the chorus returns once more; the guitar kicks in and all negativity is forgotten.

I have to admit that when I first heard Steer I wasn’t entirely convinced. It was the first single off the album and I had a few versions of it on my iTunes, so it kept replaying itself. I was so excited to hear new songs from Missy that I listened to it a lot in a short space of time and the novelty soon wore thin. It didn’t astound me lyrically and so, for about a year after its release, I often found myself skipping past it on my iPod. Nowadays, I’ve rediscovered it for the great song it really is and could happily listen to it on repeat.

Sugarcane. The most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. Wow. I love every second of it. It’s the most played song on my iTunes and I can’t ever see myself getting bored of it. The lyrics are beautifully crafted to haunt you. The first verse is about abuse of a young girl. The second about an older girl in a peepshow who dances behind a one-way mirror to try and convince herself that people aren’t watching. If only the young girl had the ability to do the same. But she doesn’t. And so she must “Run. Run fast. Sugarcane”. This is, of course, just my interpretation. And as I’ve said, you can find a thousand different meanings from each song of Missy’s.  If I remember correctly, it was inspired by a photo a ballerina with a ghostly figure behind it, hence the song beginning with the metaphor of the ‘Baby Ballerinas hiding somewhere in the corner”. I can’t tell you enough how beautiful this song is. If you take anything from this review, or even this whole blog. It should be to have a listen of this song. Don’t just casually listen to it though. You need to focus on the lyrics and the vocals alike to soak up everything you can from this work of beauty.

I like the verses in Secret. The chorus has never been so appealing, but the vocal ability of Missy allows me to forget about that. It was written about a relationship that the speaker wants to be open about, whilst the other party wants it to remain as… well, as a secret. Clearly this relationship isn’t going to work out so well. Cue long contemplative lyrics from Higgins.

Perhaps the best vocal performance on the album comes on Warm Whispers. This album version doesn’t display the true capacity of Missy’s voice but this YouTube clip does it a lot more justice. The length that she can hold a note for amazes me. As do the metaphors in this song. I mean, she’s weeping “warm honey and milk”. Who else weeps warm honey and milk? Nobody I know of.

Missy can play the piano amazingly. But that doesn’t mean she’s at all bad at guitar playing either. As shown in The Wrong Girl where she casually strums away as she sings. Angela, a song inspired by a black and white photo Missy once saw in a hotel she was staying in, is also played on guitar. Missy is way too musically talented for my liking. She makes my one song that I can play on the piano (The First Noel – perfect for all occasions) look entirely worthless. Which I guess isn’t that hard. But well, she’s just all round musically talented.

The big break-up song of the album is Peachy. Each verse passes the blame around as to whose fault the break up is, with the chorus referring to how the ex says that life is ‘Peachy’ without her. It’s a great sing-along track; you can scream your heart out in the chorus and briefly regain your breath in the verses before breaking out into passionate song once more when the chorus returns.

The majority of this album was written in Broome (a town in rural Western Australia) which allowed for Missy to focus solely on songwriting. It was one evening when she looked up at the sky and saw how beautiful it was that she came up with the album’s title. The natural beauty of the landscape where the album was written comes across in the songs that were produced. Going North sings of going to explore new opportunities elsewhere. In this case, ‘elsewhere’ is north. Whereabouts ‘North’ is, I don’t know. But I reckon it’s somewhere rather nice. Apparently ‘answers fall like leaves’ there. I’d quite like that. Maybe one day I’ll find somewhere like that myself.

As the album ends, the final song is rawer than all the other tracks. It was recorded in Mitchell Froom’s front room and if you listen carefully, you can hear an airplane flying by towards the end of the song. There’s no need for autotuning or adding effects to Missy’s songs. Even in their rawest forms they are beautiful. The lyrics are about a man who is, quite literally, begging for forgiveness on his knees. Without much to focus on aside from Missy’s strong vocals and the background acoustic guitar, you can really feel as though you are able to connect with this character in the song. You can genuinely feel his desperation as she sings “Take this one fallen man on his knees. Saying please forgive me”.

So that concludes my review of ‘On a Clear Night’. It’s probably my favourite album ever. I hope that you can connect with the album as I did and see past the heaviness of the lyrics to discover their true beauty.

I recently thought to myself about how I could well be the most obsessive Missy Higgins fan to have never seen her play live. Anyone agree?

Advertisements

My hommage to Neighbours

I wrote this in English last year. It was meant to be a speech about something we were passionate about. Typically, I failed to think of anything that I was overwhelmed with passion for. My friend jokingly suggested I wrote it about my love of Neighbours. Alas, this is what I produced…

Have you ever wanted to live in a street where beautiful people live alongside one another smiling in the sunlight? For many citizens this is purely an idyllic fantasy but for the fortunate residents of Ramsay Street this is everyday life.

It is at this point that I should point out that this is not real – it is a soap opera. It is a television programme where marriages, deaths and natural disasters can be crammed in to twenty three minutes of viewing pleasure. However, aside from the fiction of it all, Neighbours does have many realistic storylines that allow us to escape the struggles of everyday life and get caught up in the adventures in Erinsborough.

I would like you to now take a moment to stop and think about your neighbours. How many of you can say that you have had a reality TV star, glamour model and former Miss Australia living in your cul-de-sac? I’d make the assumption that none of us can say we do and so it is this unbelievable nature of the residents that we, as a nation, have grown to love. Our own lives just don’t provide us with the singing sensations, bikini-clad bodies or beauty queens that can be found in those five households.

Neighbours does not only provide viewers with attractive people; the attractive weather is another major factor in the show’s success. It never rains in Ramsay Street. No matter how torrential the British weather may be, you can always find half an hour of sunshine on the show. The cast will be there, rain or shine, in the midst of winter wearing bikinis so long as the camera can capture a glimpse of sunlight.

Speaking from my own personal viewing, I know that my life was missing something before Harold, Lou and The Kennedys came along. No one can deny that these carefully crafted characters provide us with the perfect blend of drama, romance and comedy. As such it is clear that Neighbours injects the programme with not only clever characters, but also with talented cast…

Neighbours gave us Kylie and Jason, Natalie Imbruglia and Delta Goodrem. These few names are just a part of the long list of gifted cast members. Talent like theirs is hard to find and yet Neighbours always manages to maintain a constant flow of it.

Over the years the storylining department have worked hard to create storylines that are hard-hitting, relevant and accurate. Examples of modern plots include the recent excellent portrayal of incest, mental illness and Multiple Sclerosis. Each of these storylines must first be researched prior to script writing to ensure that an accurate representation of the issues in hand is given.

Neighbours has been a successful show for the past twenty five years. Without it thousands of university students would have had nothing to watch whilst studying; housewives with nothing to inspire them whilst ironing; families deprived of the sunshine as they eat their dinner.

So where would you be without Neighbours? Ultimately, in a much darker place. After all, EVERYBODY needs good neighbours…

The Virtual Revolution

The BBC’s latest technology documentary was most probably not aimed at teenage girls. Yet I have really enjoyed The Virtual Revolution.

A series made up of four hour long programmes each focussing on different areas of progress/concern within this new fangled invention that we like to call the Internet.  Presented by Dr Aleks Krotoski, the sheer amount of knowledge that it makes accessible to a wider audience is really impressive. And as for those who comment on the issues in between the shots of Aleks in the same blue dress in nearly every technologically advanced city throughout the world? Why, the Beeb must have some good connections/persuading skills money to entice the creator of the Internet itself, Tim Berners-Lee, alongside Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Steve Wozniak (Apple) to suggest their own opinions on the dominance of the internet. Oh, and quite simply for the fact that the programme comes with it’s very own hash tag (#bbcrevolution), how on earth could I not become immersed in it?

Episode One looked at how anyone can leave their footprint permanently on the web, with sites such as Wikipedia and YouTube allowing anyone to upload freely whatever content they wish (until it is removed for huge inaccuracies in the case of the former, or for copyright issues or generally breaking the law in the case of the latter). Additionally, the programme looks at the rise of blogs and how they give a voice to anyone who wants one – something that we must thank the internet for providing an outlet for people to communicate in ways which would otherwise be impossible. Take the example of the Iranian conflict. Twitter became a great way of sharing the real stories behind the news reports with hash tags and twibbons being used to show support.

Politics are paid particular attention to in the second episode, whilst ‘The Cost of Free’ tells the truth about how easily accessible everything we post on the internet is and how it can be used against us. Search Engines like the formidable Google can track all our searches and form targeted ads specifically for us. This doesn’t worry me massively, but the fact that they can work out who you are and the intimacies of your life by tracking all the searches from you IP address proves to be a little more worrying.

Having enjoyed the first three episodes, the most interesting and relevant episode for me would have to be the final show. ‘Homo Interneticus?’ poses the question that a new generation of web savvy youngsters have been born who spend up to 18 (yes, EIGHTEEN) hours a day in front of a screen. Yes, I always joke about being addicted to twitter and checking my emails, but even I find it absurd that a young person can waste so many hours of a day being so inactive. The rise of social networking is a topic that’s regularly been covered in the media to much rolling of eyes from the teenagers themselves. However, this programme does show the issue in a less biased way with Stephen Fry proclaiming that adults should not moan at the youths for using these services as, had they been around in his childhood, he believes that they’d have been just as popular. It’s just a new media that scares the older generations because we, the supposed yobs of society, know how to use the internet better than our parents.

Ultimately, this is a great series. I’m not saying that other teens will enjoy it (I don’t think everyone is quite as obsessive with the web as me) but I reckon it’d be of interest to a lot of people. So thank you #bbcrevolution for providing me with four hours of knowledge and insightful information. I might not have been your target audience, yet your programme managed to really influence me.

Delta Goodrem – Innocent Eyes

“I was born to try. I’ve learned to love. Be understanding. And believe in life.”

Nice words. But, perhaps surprisingly, not mine. Yes, I was born. And I do try. I’m yet to understand what love is and I’m one of the most unsympathetic people you’ll ever meet. I guess I believe in life though. So it’s partly true for me.

Anyway, these are the words from Delta Goodrem’s first hit single: Born To Try. Her route to fame was one that I admired, quite simply because it involved Neighbours. And I love Neighbours. A bit too much sometimes. Delta played the character of Nina Tucker for a while before leaving to make the classic move to music.

As with all Neighbours stars who opt to go down this path, Delta was met with a bit of criticism. However her talent made them think twice and she’s shown that you can have a genuine music career off the back of the Aussie soap.

The next song on the album was to be another success. Innocent Eyes continued to show the vocal range of Delta’s voice with longgggggg notes being held out for some time.

Not Me, Not I begins with some soft opening vocals and continues in a similar vain. Similarly, Throw It Away begins in a voice that’s anything but harsh, before it gains power in the chorus. One thing I must say about this track is that it features the cliché ‘bull in a china shop’. Not the most original or imaginative, is it really?!

I enjoy the opening verse in Lost Without You. The chorus fails to offend me either. So that makes for a likeable record. I don’t love it. I like it. You see, for some reason my like of Delta’s music doesn’t extend to my love of most female Australian Singer-Songwriters. I’m not sure why. Logically, I should like her more because of the Neighbours connection. But I don’t find myself infatuated by her voice in the same way I do to the likes of Missy. To be honest, I think I probably find her songs too happy for my taste. Ever the ‘half-full cup’, I like songs with a few heavier lyrics.

Predictable, Butterfly and In My Own Time each carry a tune well. And I can’t fault the vocal performances of any of them. I am particularly fond of the latter for the use of Delta’s voice. And for it’s slightly pessimistic tone. She’s still not negative. Just not 100% positive. Which, in my books, makes for an enjoyable song.

The lyrics to My Big Mistake are quite lovely. Back in the day when this album was a regular on my CD walkman I can recollect singing aloud to it. A lot. Very out of tune.

I equally love This Is Not Me for it’s simple chorus lyrics which are dispersed between beautiful narratives in the verses. Running Away is probably my least favourite track. The verses are pleasant, but the chorus does less to endear me. I can’t pinpoint the reasons why. I’m just not wowed by it. In contrast, Year Ago Today, is truly endearing. I love the personal tone to the verses and the slow tempo of the song.

Ending with Longer, then finally Will You Fall For Me the album remains likeable. Born To Try, Innocent Eyes and Year Ago Today are the stand out tracks for me but that’s not saying the whole album isn’t deserving of a listen.  Even if only to remind you of Nina Tucker’s bursts of song in Neighbours.

A great voice. Good songs. I reckon the second album was where the songs became equally great.

Pete Murray – See The Sun

Pete Murray has written and sung three albums, been on numerous tours and had several hits in Australia. Yet over here he’s most likely to be found in a tiny venue in Soho rather than in an arena. That’s not to say he’s not popular here. He’s managed to sell out Brixton Academy before. Yet last year his three performances at The Borderline near Tottenham Court Road tube station were watched by just a small number of his fans. Fans that included me. On all three nights. At this stage you should probably have worked out that this is going to be yet another biased review. And it is. Because See The Sun is possibly the most inspiring album I own.

Opportunity is the most uplifting song I’ve ever heard. It might not have the quickest beat. It might not have a sickeningly catchy chorus. It might not even have been heard of over here. But I love it. “Your coffee’s warm but your milk is sour/life is short but you’re here to flower” is just one of the lines that’s been crafted into the verses to make you reflect on your own life and encourage you to make the most of it.  It’s also the verse that Brett Wood, Pete’s guitarist, made his own at The Borderline gigs. He made it different. Not better. It was equally brilliant vocally; it just changed the song a bit and allowed for a different version to greet my ears.

The chorus sings of the chances you get to escape your boring routine, and how, if you don’t take those chances, they’ll just fade away. The principle of the song is so simple but it’s just something that you never really hear in the right way to inspire change. Ultimately, it was this one song, perhaps combined with Better Days and a bit of self confidence that caused me to change my attitude to life and become an altogether happier person.

The aforementioned Better Days carries a similar message. Once again, Pete sings to encourage you. Lyrically, the song speaks sense. We all have our bad days. So why not think about the good times and how we’ll get through the tougher times to have some more favourable memories.

Class A, Trust, This Pill and Remedy  all show off Pete’s guitar playing ability. Pete doesn’t just write good songs. He also sings good songs. And, wow, he can also play good songs. Back in 2006, he performed a duet with my other favourite guitarist, John Mayer, at the ARIA’s. It was something special that I recommend you take a look at here.

In George’s Helper a herd of trumpets suddenly appear and lead into some soft vocals from Pete. They become harsher and louder as the song progresses but return to fade out at the end, creating an almost cyclical structure to the song. Pete’s soft vocals can also be found in Lost Soul when he, once again, sings of optimism. I’m not sure what had been going on in his life when this album was written, but he seems to be rather reflective and wanting to encourage others to be positively reflective on their own lives.

Any song titled Smile has to make your mouth twinge to justify it being given that name. Admittedly, the sound of Pete’s voice immediately brightens my day so it’s not much of a task. Yet I believe that even you, yes you, could find yourself smiling at something that’s cheered you up previously. This album couldn’t be depressing if you wanted it to be. Contrast it to my other favourite album at the time I listened to it, Missy Higgins’ The Sound of White and it’s pretty clear to see that the latter has a rather darker mood to it.

A song written about a girl. A song written about hope. A song written about dreams. All of these topics have been amalgamated to construct Fly With You. It’s not truly heartfelt by any means. But it’s been constructed carefully enough to make a pleasant listening experience. The chorus is not as strong as the verses, but in the last choruses Pete’s voice is allowed to shine through holding notes for a while to show it off.

Security is also about a possible love. It’s got some cute lyrics that make you wish it was written about you. But it’s not. It’s yet another song about a failed relationship.

The title track, See The Sun is sung in a slightly drained voice. Pete sounds emotionally drained and that just adds to the character of the song. The chorus has some words that aren’t always totally comprehendible if you are just casually listening to it. This song, along with the entire album, deserves attention. And when you give it that attention, it becomes something beautiful. Each song has been written to evoke you. You might be wanting to cry on the inside, but Pete knows how to lift your spirits and direct you to a much brighter future.

Anthony Snape – Disappearing Day

I have MySpace to thank for my discovery of Anthony Snape. I can’t remember how I found his page – probably through a trail of Australian Singer-Songwriters pages – but I found him. And I’m so glad I did.

Twelve songs, plus the beautifully hidden Silvia make up the album. Signed to an independent label in Australia, I’m amazed he’s made it on to UK iTunes, but he has. And, alas, I have this wonderful album.

Opening with Daylight, an uplifting track with the metaphor, or possible literal meaning, of not wanting daylight to not to arise, Snape envelops you with the first of many catchy choruses. He also demonstrates his ability to hold a note, something he can do for an impressively long time.

“Every stumble helps you grow/learn the things you didn’t know”. Those lyrics speak true to many of the situation life throws at you; as such I felt a personal connection with Little Piece Of Love. Written in a way that it can create this personal sentiment to a wider audience, it implies that you are special. Whoever YOU maybe. However clichéd it might sound, it does succeed in portraying that message.

I was immediately taken by Walking. It’s only a short song – less than three minutes – but it captured me. The attitude taken in the lyrics is that of getting knocked down but getting up again, though in a far less irritating way than that awful chant-like song.

Lay Down Your Love was not a song I was desperately drawn to, perhaps to do with my belief that the chorus sounds a little more manufactured than some other album tracks.

I remember skiing down mountains with the lyrics to Call On Me flying around my head. It’s fast paced, just like my skiing. Although, I must credit it as being far less shaky than my skiing skills. I’m not too sure what the subject matter of the song is, and I like not knowing. It’s got a literal meaning, that’s for sure; if you’re looking for a quick fling Snape wants to hear from you. But I question if there’s not something a little more deep hidden behind it. Then again, listening to it now, he does sound pretty keen on finding some quick love. So maybe that’s just what he was craving at the time.

Sounding a little more heartbroken, the title track Disappearing Day, sings of waiting for someone’s love. It sounds a little unrequited, so going by the previous wants of a one night stand, if the lyrics are in any way factual, Snape may not have been having the greatest time relationship-wise. The song itself sticks to the formula of a tuneful chorus that refuses to evacuate your head for several days.

Frequency also has a catchy chorus. And whilst Solitude isn’t quite so memorable, it’s still well formed with some repetition to try and drill it into you that the narrative is trying to get some time alone. One of the slower paced tracks, Come, has a floaty feel about it. As though you could almost hear the sea in the background.

Now to the song I know the most about. When I was given a school project to make a fictional compilation CD of songs that I liked or had some connection to, I took it a little more seriously than my peers and wrote to Snape himself to inquire to the subject. Though I doubted a response, I was proven wrong when he responded with a line by line explanation of the song. Bless him. It turns out the song’s inspiration was drawn from previous relationships where girlfriends had been picky about the small, idiosyncratic things, although he later concluded that this could just be because of the differences between gender and how interpretations of things can vary. But from this inspiration, Idiosyncrasy was born. And it was my favourite song for quite some time. That is, until I fell in love with Sunday.

There was a stage in my life where I found myself allergic to Sundays. Whilst this may sound illogical, and I’ll admit I was never given an official medical diagnosis, I believe that an allergy to a day of the week can exist. Sunday lies at the end of the weekend. The weekend is found before you return to the routines of weekdays. The routines of weekdays that included school. And I wasn’t desperately fond of school, for many reasons I shan’t divulge, but it just wasn’t something I enjoyed waking up to. Anyway, Sunday sung to me about the day in a completely different light. Whilst Snape sung of how quickly Sunday comes around as a day to relax, I interpreted it in my own way. It encouraged me to ‘break from the cycle’ that he’d written about, as I grow to learn that Monday wouldn’t cause me any pain. And to this day, I still love this song. It connects with me in a way that only a handful of songs do. So if you take anything from this review – download Sunday. Or atleast take a listen on YouTube. The version on the album Acoustic Sunday is the one of the most amazing versions of any song I’ve ever heard. Listen to it, ok?!

In a slightly less dramatic way, Stronger along with the hidden track Silvia end the album well with the narrative of the lyrics in both telling stories that feel un-manufactured. And for this I love the album. You get the sense that Snape writes about what he wants. He makes it personal. For both his enjoyment, and yours.

A recently uploaded YouTube video shows Snape singing yet another beautifully crafted track, Balloons, that I’m left hoping will appear on a future release. His combination of vocal ability and emotive lyrics wowed me, making Disappearing Day a highly played album on my iTunes.

Nicola Roberts: The Truth About Tanning

Wow. This isn’t your average BBC3 documentary.

I was doing my normal ‘I probably should be doing something productive so why don’t I see what’s on iPlayer’ browse today and came across this programme. I’m not a huge Girls Aloud fan, nor am I a lover of fake tan, which is why it’s taken me until today to decide to watch this. But I’m glad I did. Nicola Roberts is my new favourite member of Girls Aloud. I say “new”. I’ve never had a favourite member of Girls Aloud. Therefore she is the only one I’ve ever liked. We even have something in common. And no, before you ask, it’s not our shared outstanding vocal talents. We are both pale. Very pale.

Back when the band first took off after all that reality TV malarkey, Nicola came under pressure to tan. And tan. And tan some more. Being thrown into the limelight at such a young age was always going to come with it’s negatives and for Nicola this was clearly something that she was greatly influenced by. Whilst she says in the programme that her main weakness was products from a bottle, the documentary sees how far things have developed in the short period of time since Nicola gave up the tanning.

No longer do people pop down to Superdrug for the latest fake tan in a bottle. Nowadays the most common choice is to use a tanning machine. With harmful UV rays being shot onto your skin it amazes me that people love these machines. Nicola looks at salons across the country and uncovers the complete lack of regulations regarding their usage. Sure, there are ‘guidelines’. But no laws. And without laws, there’s no guaranteeing that a 8 year old couldn’t walk in and become a victim of skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the main worry highlighter by Nicola. Altering the pigments in your skin can result in irregularities in the amount of melanoma in your skin, which can be fatal. Following Nicola as she supports a campaign to promote the issue, you see girls of all ages with irregular moles that often need further medical attention.

As well as looking at the problem on a nationwide scale, individual cases are looked at on a personal level. Tom, a young welsh guy declares that at the age of 18 he “came out of the closet and straight onto a sunbed”. Now in his mid-twenties, the damage he’s done to his skin could be irreversible. And he hasn’t stopped at sunbeds. He also has started using a new injection that’s illegal to buy in the country and has yet to been proven to be safe. This worries Nicola and, as such, he agrees to go clean of all forms of tanning for one month.

Megan, a 20 year old dancer from Liverpool, has used sunbeds regularly since the age of 16. Nicola takes her to visit a woman who was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma in the hope she’ll see why it’s so damaging. Later she visits a dermatologist who takes photos of her skin showing her the real damage the UV is doing beyond what is visible to the human eye.

After a month of being ‘clean’ from tanning, both Tom and Megan are treated to a makeover and photoshoot in the hope that they’ll see their true natural beauty. Whilst Megan seems to genuinely be converted to a life less orange, Tom seems less convinced.

Other individual cases prove to be even more traumatic. Nicola goes to see a woman in hospital as she has cancerous cells removed and a visit to a mother whose daughter died from skin cancer proves to be extremely sad. It’s not just the individual whose life can be affected. The desire to look ‘cool’ can lead to a family struggling to cope with the heartbreak of losing a loved one.

Having seen the devastation and destruction that tanning can do, I can be certain that I’ll never go on a tanning bed, or try out a ghastly tanning injection. I’d rather my skin be ghostly over ghastly anyday.

Watch it.

Lisa Mitchell – Wonder

Lisa Mitchell was an artist whose name I’d heard a lot of before I decided to listen to her work. With an ARIA nomination under her wing, I found myself drawn to listening to Wonder after seeing her impressive performance of Coin Laundry at the awards ceremony.

Wonder opens with a short forty six second taster of Mitchell’s voice. Singing the classic Oh What a Beautiful Morning you are introduced to the rawness of her vocals. Her voice sounds cute, edgy and youthful; the latter is due to the fact that Mitchell herself is only just out of her youth.

Next you are given the opportunity to enjoy Neopolitan Dreams. With a voice that reminds me of Kimya Dawson, Mitchell uses what sounds like a glockenspiel to create a catchy beat to lay the vocals on top of. Having seen live performances of this song on YouTube, it appears that Mitchell gets caught up in her own little world as she strums her guitar and jumps, like an over excited toddler, around the stage.

“Even though you’re poison babe, I wouldn’t even hesitate” are lyrics from So Jealous which approaches the regularly sung about topic of a fledgling relationship. She sings of being “So sick” with love. Whilst some lyrics aren’t the most original, Mitchell matches them with her edgy voice and musical abilities to produce something quite special.

A favourite of mine, Coin Laundry, is Mitchell’s most well-known track. Having gained enough recognition to earn her a nomination for Best Female at 2009’s ARIA’s, the song received significant airplay in her home country of Australia and has a lovely video to accompany it. The video is, unsurprisingly, set in a laundrette with Mitchell playing a character who is invisible to others.

Clean White Love, Pirouette and Love Letter all demonstrate the versatility of Mitchell’s voice with varying tempos. Whilst Oh! Hark!  impresses you with some soft vocals combined with a louder, faster chorus.

Stevie is a reasonably long track, approaching five minutes in length. However I feel it’s a great length for this song. Ok, so there is a lot of repetition of “Oh Stevie, why can’t you see you’re God to me?” but it just works. There are slower instrumentals breaking up the verses, breaking up the repetitive chorus.

The rest of the album follows suit with songs that are as you’d expect. It’s not that I’m not impressed by them, I just feel that they are very much “album tracks” that aren’t quite up to the standard of being single material

Whilst it’s not an album track, I want to mention Alice In Wonderland as a lovely song that I would recommend for you to listen to. I’ve got tickets to see Lisa Mitchell perform in Cambridge on March 4th. She’s got a lot of dates around the country, so if you’re a fan of Kimya Dawson or generally a fan of my obscure Australian recommendations then I think she’s worthy of you parting with your money to see.

Missy Higgins – The Missy Higgins EP

DISCLAIMER: Before I begin any of my reviews of Missy I feel I need to point out that I quite genuinely adore her music. She is the reason that music became such a big part of my life. Her lyrics inspired me at times when my life lacked inspiration and I really do love every song she’s ever written. Hence, you are unlikely to get any form of a balanced or unbiased review from me. Missy’s music is one of those Marmite-esque things that you either love or hate. For me, it’s 100% the former, but I’m aware that my view isn’t shared by all and you’re more than welcome to respond with moans about her “boring” voice or “depressing” lyrics. I think she’s utterly amazing. End of.

I could quite happily write an essay about every one of the ninety six songs by Missy Higgins on my iTunes. I’m not going to. But I could. Each burst of her voice enchants me. Her lyrics leave me simultaneously astounded and engrossed. The sound of the piano chords that she effortlessly plays makes me want to learn an instrument.

If you know me personally, then you’ll be more than aware of my love for Missy’s music. You should also know how disappointed I am to have never seen her play live. She’s not visited the UK since 2006, back when my super-fandom was only in it’s youth. Alas, I was on holiday for her London dates and wasn’t yet desperate enough to travel the country to see her. This is no longer the case. I would now travel anywhere in Europe to see her sing. Anywhere. With the temptation to fly to America just for one gig becoming ever more tempting. However, let’s go back to before 2006. Before I had even heard of her. Back in 2003, Missy released her first EP.

The Missy Higgins EP begins with Greed For Your Love. Bursts of Missy’s powerful voice are intertwined with verses full of metaphors screaming of heartache.  It is a track, quite simply, about wanting to be loved. Clichéd? Maybe. But you need to realise that Missy was still young when she started out.

 In fact, All For Believing was written when Missy was just fifteen. Winning the Triple J Unearthed radio competition in 2001, Missy then took a year out backpacking around Europe before returning to her music. The song commences with haunting vocals accompanied with some piano playing. Lyrics are sung with such honesty that make it clear why it was awarded the radio prize.

Missy’s voice immediately greets you in Falling. Her voice has a power that can overwhelm you without sounding forced. “Don’t say/What you’re about to say” are the opening lyrics. The use of the second person enhances the song, making you feel as though it’s being sung to you. Missy’s music is personal. You can connect with lyrics and often find yourself completely empathising with the words that float from Missy’s mouth.

The Special Two is one of the heavier songs written by Missy. She sings of childhood dreams being destroyed. Yet all hope is not lost as the chorus tells of there being someone else who will always be there to hold your hand throughout life. Not scared of being too deep in her lyrics, The Special Two poses philosophical questions. Asking “Is it better to tell and hurt, or lie to save their face?” Missy continues by saying the best thing to do is to never have done it in the first place. Which is better than any answer I could ever come up with. Could you answer it any better?!

This EP was just four songs. Four songs that would be the beginning of a music career. A music career that would become a huge part of my life.

Paloma Faith – Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?

The version of Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful? that I downloaded comes with two live video performances. Her two biggest hits, New York and Stone Cold Sober can each be seen in recordings from a gig at London’s ICA. Paloma Faith’s presence in the videos is very obvious; she appears to be an intriguing character with tremendous talent. At the beginning of the New York video you see Paloma carefully moving miniature chairs across the stage. The purpose of this? Well, apparently there was not one as she quite quickly jumps off of them and burst into the first line of the song. I only had to hear the title of Stone Cold Sober to know that this song would speak true of my life. “You think I’m hazy/a little bit crazy/but I’m stone cold sober”. As a non-drinker who manages to act stupid at parties and who, on occasion, been asked how she felt the morning after a sober night, I know that an alcohol-free night can still lead to craziness.

Her three singles, the two aforementioned along with the title’s namesake, made Paloma a household name. However she remains notably absent from this year’s Brits nominations. I feel a little disappointed for Paloma as DYWTTOSB? is a really impressive album that is more than deserving of a nomination.

Tracks such as Romance Is Dead and Broken Doll immediately sold me to become a fan. I’ll be the first to admit, that upon seeing Paloma’s appearance on Never Mind The Buzzcocks I was a little suspect about her being ‘yet another Winehouse wannabe’. These tracks have proven me wrong. Paloma has her own sound and her own songs that need no comparisons to be made.

Romance Is Dead sings true of the sordid state of relationships in today’s world. Pre-wrote birthday cards and email communication suggest that the death of romance is actually a lot more real than you might think. With the over-commercialised Valentines Day approaching, I reckon guys should take note of these lyrics and prove that there are still some original, thoughtful men out there.

“I’m a broken doll/You’re the puppeteer” are the opening lines of Broken Doll. It’s a song that’s, perhaps, been written about wanting control in a relationship. She sings of being “scared of shadows in the night” and similar clichés about nightmares and loneliness. For someone so anti-cliché in Romance Is Dead I find it interesting to hear her take on dreams of romance in a different way.

Softer vocals are used by Paloma in Stargazer and Press Lightly showing that Paloma isn’t a one trick horse, whilst the opening of Upside Down sounds almost as though the music has been taken from an old black and white movie. And in Play On you’re greeted with a solemn violin introduction before the vocals kick in. Various instruments are used throughout the album making each song different from the previous.

Smoke & Mirrors and My Legs Are Weak are both catchy but fit in as ‘album tracks’ more so than other songs which I see as having a lot more potential.

All in all, I really like this album. I wouldn’t go so far to say I love it. But I certainly enjoy listening to it again and again. Clearly I am a fan, as I’ve now got tickets to see her in Cambridge on March 23rd. Stay tuned for a review.