Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page

Diane Birch – Bible Belt

From the opening notes of Fire Escape, I was immediately struck by the soulful tones of Diane Birch. Raised with religion as her parent’s top priority, the aptly named Bible Belt album combines soul with gospel to deliver these thirteen songs.

There’s a cute video for Valentino which uses many camera tricks to create something quite exciting. In fact, it was this video that inspired me to write this review. It’s a cheerful song with the title referring to an imaginary friend who appears to have been her way of escaping her strict upbringing. She didn’t discover pop music until her teenage years, although she played the piano from an early age, which works well as an accompaniment for her vocals.

Other personal highlights of the album would have to be Fools, Rewind and Don’t Wait Up for their varying styles. Whilst I enjoy Mirror Mirror for it’s reflections upon Birch’s life, I can’t help but find it tiring. It’s not hard work to listen to – I’d actually class it as ‘easy listening’ – but her soft voice could do with a bit of energy injected into it on a few songs to prevent the listener from falling asleep.

Forgiveness begins with the religious term ‘Hallelujah’ referencing Birch’s past once more. Her childhood clearly had a profound effect on her with travelling around the world being a major part of her first ten years. By ten, she’d lived in three different continents and would later settle in a fourth, Europe, when it came to writing Bible Belt. Each country must have brought with it new experiences and many goodbyes which Birch has been quoted saying she got used to. It can’t have been easy arriving somewhere, settling in then leaving, but I guess that was all she knew and so she’s used these experiences to help construct the album.

Whilst it’s not the most uplifting album, nor the most exciting, Bible Belt has a selection of sophisticated songs that are full of aspiration, regret and emotion. Birch has a great vocal ability and her lyrics are full of meaning which I always regard highly.

Advertisements

John Mayer at Wembley Arena, May 27th

Having previously been amazed by John Mayer live two years ago, I was expecting a lot from him once more. Back then, I saw him twice in twenty four hours and was so shattered that I walked out of Hard Rock Calling three songs into Eric Clapton’s set. I have memories of being very excited for weeks before the show, so I was a little anxious when these feelings didn’t resurface prior to the latest saga in my John Mayer adventures at Wembley Arena.

As I entered this vast warehouse-like building, I could hear how Ellie Goulding had already started her set. Due to lengthy tube journeys and a McDonalds stop, we couldn’t quite make it there fast enough to see everything. But from what we did see, I was surprisingly impressed. Under The Sheets was accompanied by some drumming on Goulding’s part. Now, I know that I’ve never been a Goulding fanatic, but I wasn’t aware of her drumming abilities. She stood proudly on the huge stage dancing to her heart’s content and manically drumming along to the beat. Whilst I know I missed a few songs, she’d saved her biggest hit for last and so I got to see Starry Eyed in all it’s glory. I know many people dismiss Goulding’s musical ability but what I saw was a genuinely talented girl who was very deserving of the awards she won at the beginning of the year.

It was when the male figure, dressed casually in a white shirt and khaki green combats, took to the stage that the excitement I’d been lacking suddenly all came back to me. The opening chords to Why Georgia took me straight back to my first Mayer concert at Brixton Academy and his guitar playing blew me away once more. A lengthy guitar intro to his cover of Crossroads followed where the crowd were in awe.

It was after one of my favourites from Battle Studies, Heartbreak Warfare, that he really demonstrated his musical ability with Vultures. Notoriously a long track when played live, he wowed the crowd by playing guitar with a drumstick before beat boxing in the middle of the song.

Following the heartfelt Perfectly Lonely that we first got to see him talk properly, revealing that personality that the media love to report on. Did he talk racist slander? No. Was he a sexist pig? No. Did he try and hit on a crowd member? Well, yes he did. But once he discovered she was eighteen he thought better of it and simply silenced the arena so that this heartbroken girl could sing-along with him. Having somehow gotten across to him that she’d been dumped, he cheekily added a “Fuck him” to the chorus of Edge of Desire, creating laughter amongst the audience.

To introduce his next song, he linked from this discussion by saying “On day you’ll grow up to be an Assassin”. I’ll admit that it’s not one of my favourites from Battle Studies, but any song that he plays on stage has me from the first strike of the guitar. Talent oozes from him and continued to throughout In Your Atmosphere/Something’s Missing.

Talking about the venue, Mayer stated how it’s one of those arenas that people in the US have heard of, comparing it to their far bigger Madison Square Gardens. He said that Wembley isn’t just a building; it’s a concept and an idea too. Whilst I’m not really sure the “it’s an idea” thing made sense, the sentiment was definitely there and it was clear he was delighted to be playing here for his international audience.

A highlight of the evening would be when he brought Your Body Is A Wonderland out of retirement. Apparently he scarcely plays it live nowadays because of the media’s interest in its subject matter. But, as he said, it’s OK reading the slander about him on the internet when he’s sat in his big house that the song bought him. A song about his love of the female form, it was written pre-Jessica Simpson, pre-Jennifer Anniston and long before his famed Playboy interview. You can tell that it’s not his favourite song to play for fear of the media’s repercussions, but, equally, I think he was a very different person when he wrote it. His song writing is always full of emotion that I still believe is genuine. Maybe I’m a fool for believing this, but I think there’s a private side to Mayer that he only lets the public see through his lyrics. Then again, he continued with Who Says which had the audience singing ‘Who says I can’t get stoned?” reverting back to the edgy persona who the media love to hate.

Despite the large capacity of the venue, Mayer attempted to create a more personal atmosphere by taking note of any posters and flags in the audience and commenting on them. Correctly identifying the Brazilians and the Saudi Arabians, he stumbled with the Mexican flag, suggesting it might be the Italian flag before being corrected by his fans. He apologised, “lo siento”, and broke into an impressive performance of Bigger Than My Body.

Mayer appeared to be close to his band, introducing them all personally but paying particular attention to his British guitarist Robbie McIntosh who was given the opportunity to speak to the crowd. Given the opportunity to speak to around ten thousand people, he decided this was the perfect time to tell a ‘Knock Knock’ joke, opting for the well-known ‘Big Issue’ punch line. Unfunny it may have been, but the crowd warmed to his British charm and clapped nonetheless.

Three of my favourite songs followed; Slow Dancing In A Burning Room, Waiting On The World To Change and Half Of My Heart (without Taylor Swift!) all had me completely stunned by his abilities in both performing and crafting a song.  As he finished the latter, he managed to merge it into Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’. Known for it’s recent revival on Glee, Mayer made the song his own and left the stage to clapping, cheers and a standing ovation from the arena. Whoever had the idea to sing the notes that Mayer had gotten us to chant during Don’t Stop Believin’ must be feeling pretty proud, as we all joined in and continued to repeat them until Mayer and his band returned to the stage. Mayer was visibly impressed and joined in with us before playing No Such Thing.

A song from near the beginning of his career, it couldn’t have been a more perfectly fitting song for me. I’d missed my leavers meal at school for this concert. My final day of Sixth Form had ended with me waving goodbye to all my friends as they left on coaches to an evening of entertainment. I’d had to miss out on all of this for the concert and so when Mayer sang the opening line “Welcome to the real world she said to me, condescendingly” it rang very close to home. Singing about wanting to go back to high school and tell everyone that the ‘real world’ is non-existent was fitting for the day itself and I was delighted for it to have been included in the setlist.

What did he choose for the final song of the night? A very, very long rendition of Gravity. A stunning song, he took it to another level with his guitar solo at the end. Playing with the guitar laid flat on the ground, Mayer proved himself to be this incredible musician who the press tend to forget about. Behind the tabloids, he is just another musician. A talented man who makes a few mistakes and gets ripped for them by the world’s media. For me though, John Mayer will always be the outstanding singer, songwriter and guitarist who, after an impressive two hour set, still left me wanting more.

John Mayer at Wembley Arena
May 27th 2010

Anthony Snape – Acoustic Sunday

If you’re one of the few people who’ve actually read my review of Anthony Snape’s debut, you’ll already be aware of my adoration for him. And in particular, for Sunday. As such, I was delighted when Acoustic Sunday was released.

Beginning with the aforementioned track, it immediately makes my stomach feel anxious. The power that these songs have over me is incredible. They evoke emotion from you enveloping you in their narratives. Sunday sings of how quickly time passes by and how the bad times will soon pass.

“Tomorrow you’re older, so today you should smile” he sings as he encourages you to “break from the cycle” that we’ve all become trapped in. Tomorrow isn’t going to cause us any pain. Actually that’s a bit of a lie. Tomorrow is my last day of Sixth Form. It’s also the day of my first A Level exam. Both of these things could turn out to be painful. So maybe Snape has been a little overoptimistic, but we all need that optimism in our lives.

The album is made of three tracks from Disappearing Day and four new ones. Whilst I obviously adore Sunday, that doesn’t mean that Frequency and Little Piece Of Love aren’t amazing in their acoustic glory.

The first new song is Still Not Over You. As Snape holds the long notes, he manages to show deep emotions without even saying a word. His songs carry so much emotion that they can lead you to get so caught up in his emotions that your own feelings go into some sort of overhaul and you’re left questioning everything and anything. If you’re emotionally vulnerable then maybe this isn’t the best thing to listen to. But I guess it’s all about how you listen to it.

Pretty Girl has a title that makes me think of the kind of R&B tracks that top the charts. Fortunately this is nothing like that. Emotionally powerful (have I mentioned how emotional Snape’s music is?!), it makes you wonder who the pretty girl is. And how you wish you were her.  But then you realise you’re not her and how nobody thinks of you as being like her and so you take a few minutes to wallow in self-pity.

Upon exiting the self-pitying stage, you can listen to the stunning Frozen Blues. The piano carries the lyrics along beautifully. It’s a love song full of metaphors (and you know how much I love a good metaphor!) that balances the happy and the sad to produce something perfect for singing along to loudly as you drive, forgetting that your windows are wound down.  And yes, I may be speaking from personal experience here.

I’ve saved my favourite of the newer tracks until last. I once listened to Can’t Stop The Rain on repeat for an hour. It’s incredible. “No matter how the world might change. You still can’t stop the rain”. This is a man whose words speak volumes. He’s optimistically realistic. Or maybe realistically optimistic. Whichever way round, this song is something special.

In fact, this album is something special. It’s oozing with emotion in it’s rawest form. If I had a hundredth of the songwriting talents Snape has I would think of myself as incredibly fortunate.

www.anthonysnape.com

Sia – Some People Have Real Problems

It has taken me a while to get into Sia. As an Australian female singer/songwriter with a bit more media coverage than most of my favourites, you’d have thought I’d have taken a listen a lot sooner. But I didn’t. It was only when I was prompted on Twitter to download Some People Have Real Problems that I gave her a chance to shine.

With album artwork echoing everything that is beautifully awkward about the Paint application, I was expecting something a bit quirky. And yes, having seen some of her videos on YouTube, they are a little bit different to the usual drones of miming and choreography that populates our charts. (See this video for her new single Clap Your Hands to find this out for yourself!)

Little Black Sandals has a catchy hook in the chorus. It’s floaty, without being too floaty. It’s more Joss Stone than Imogen Heap in floatiness, which I regard as a positive. Her voice is soulful and full of emotion which adds to the strength of the songs.

I don’t like lentils, but that hasn’t stopped my appreciation of Lentil. In particular the rhythm that accompanies the lyrics which helps to keep the song flowing for the entirety of it’s duration.

Day Too Soon is possibly my favourite song on the album. Her voice reminds me of Gabrielle with it’s huskiness at times. The narrative tells the classic “I’ve been waiting all my life” story before meeting that special one “not a day too soon”. It might be clichéd but it’s well structured to emote these feelings beautifully.

Upon reading the lyrics to You Have Been Loved they carry a lot of meaning. Perhaps they’re too dragged out in the song itself, but the craftsmanship lyrically is impressive. Simple metaphors are used to construct the story of an ending relationship.

Naming a song The Girl You Lost to Cocaine immediately has an impact upon the listener. It’s a bit ‘jazz meets pop meets non-shouty-but-powerful-singing’. Combining these aspects works well and produces a song that I can imagine could’ve been radio friendly were it not for the ten seconds or so instrumental in the middle in which you’re left to reflect on the song’s title.

The beginning of Academia screams Regina Spektor to me. But then things suddenly change and the quickly spoken words become haunting slow lyrics for the chorus. The contrast achieves something intriguing and ultimately rather pleasant. Oh, and she sings “If I am a number I am infinity plus one” – despite the lack of rationality in this statement I admire the use of ‘infinity’ in any context that doesn’t relate to Buzz Lightyear.

The lullaby-esque I Go to Sleep is a bit too tiring for my liking and Playground takes a while to get into, but Death by Chocolate is far superior. The verses introduce different ideas of ‘Death by…’ situations that are all rather poignant in making a point.

“Death by anger this is true
Just let him go he can’t hurt you
Oh little girl this is such a cruel, cruel world
this is the first, of a million broken hearts”

There’s something about Soon We’ll Be Found that reminds me of Paloma Faith. Electric Bird has background sounds of, unsurprisingly, birds. And Beautiful Calm Driving is, well it’s beautiful and calm.

It’s in Lullaby where the slower pace really shows off the softer vocals that Sia has to offer. Occasionally there’s the odd word that I found inaudible, but that’s what the huskiness of the vocals does. And I quite like it.

Ending with the upbeat Buttons, the album is full of variety. Sia has a great vocal range that suits several different types of songs. I’m glad I was advised to look into Sia; I shall now continue to spread the Sia love by suggesting that you do the same. Check her out. And then send any other recommendations in my direction!

Michael Bublé at The O2

Intimacy and concerts at The O2 don’t really go well together. I mean, I’ve seen Ben Lee at indigo2 and that was reasonably small, but once you enter the actual arena you do not expect to feel like it’s just you and the performer there.

Having opened with Cry Me A River and All Of Me, Michael Bublé immediately initiated some crowd banter that would help him to win over the hearts of anyone still unconvinced of his loveliness. He asked girls at the front how old they were, before replying “Oh Shit” and comparing himself to Justin Bieber, mimicking the Bieber hair flick, when they screamed “Sixteeeeen”. And then there was the time when an audience member, who later told us that her name was Jane, was allowed to walk up to the front of the arena, just to say ‘Hi’ to Bublé. He knew how to take this arena of about 20,000 and make it feel almost as intimate as the Joshua Radin gig that I went to the other week where the audience could have been more than 150!

He stated that this was not to be a concert. If we’d wanted to see a concert we should’ve gone to the opera. He wanted this to be a party. We were to stand up and dance if we felt like it and if the people behind us politely asked “Excuse me, could you please sit down”, Michael directed us to swear at them.

If anyone wasn’t already in love with him, the fact that he introduced the ten men on stage with him individually with the city that they were from demonstrated his lovely personality and charm. He didn’t see it as a one man show, he seems ever so grateful to everyone who has helped him out along the way.

Highlights of the setlist early on included Crazy Love where the whole audience sang along, each imagining that they were being serenaded alone by the man who recently got engaged to his Argentinean girlfriend. Upon announcing this to the crowd he laughed at the boos that were directed at him (the crowd’s only negative reaction of the night) and then joked about the men who’d been dragged in the audience who he assumed were thinking ‘He’s so gay’.

He combined his singles with covers, choosing songs that were personal to him in order to make it more intimate. Everything had the whole audience in awe, although there wasn’t a song he performed that didn’t have us all on the verge of tears. In fact, my male friend who came with me admitted “I had a tear in my eye but it didn’t come out.”

At one point Bublé left the stage to walk through the seated audience on the ground to the centre of the arena where the sound men were. Accompanied by amazing support act Naturally 7, he got up on the boxes of equipment and performed a few songs including Home. With my cheap seat being right at the back of the arena on Level  4, I was able to take a zoomed in photo on my old digital camera and just about made out where he was. Yes, the view wasn’t amazing, but you could still see him, just, and the sound was incredible everywhere.

The final song before the encore was Haven’t Met You Yet. Nearly the whole arena stood, singing and clapping along, making the most of his beautiful voice and equally beautiful looks.  We continued clapping long after the song ended, knowing that he wouldn’t be leaving us just yet. Returning to the stage he played a three song encore which made for an incredible ending on the final song.

The O2 is huge. Yet Michael Bublé somehow managed to fill the entirety of the venue without a microphone. As he stood proudly behind a pale curtain singing Song For You to an audience who’d been stunned into silence, I knew that this concert could not have been any more amazing. And then he walked off stage, shaking the hands of many, many audience members before departing us for one final time.

Michael Bublé
The O2
May 15th 2010

Beth Rowley – Little Dreamer

I’ve seen Beth Rowley perform live twice. The first time was on that memorable evening when I saw Nerina Pallot at The Clapham Grand. Beth was one of the many other artists being showcased that night and one of the few who I took particular notice of. And the second time? Well that was something a little more holy. It was in a church. In Piccadilly. Perhaps you might think this to be a strange setting, but the acoustics were so perfect for her voice that it sent shivers down my spine. You could even go so far as to say it was sublime. So sublime.

So Sublime is one of the stand out tracks on Little Dreamer. It’s got a bit more of a pop music rhythm to it. Her voice really does shine through in the chorus. If I remember correctly, Beth didn’t perform this song in the church. I honestly can’t remember far enough back as to whether it made an appearance at Clapham, but I can say that I’d rather like to hear this live.

Nobody’s Fault But Mine and Sweet Hours each see Beth’s voice being used beautifully. They vary in tempos and moods but I can’t say I prefer one to the other. The versatility of her voice means that it’s suited to a variety of songs.

I’ll admit that I Shall Be Released, Only One Cloud, When The Rains Came and Oh My Life don’t stand out massively to me. Out of the four I’d pick When The Rains Came as my favourite but, particularly in the case of Oh My Life I find myself a little bit indifferent.

Angel Flying To Close To The Ground sees Beth’s voice joined by some male vocals to create a haunting song. Perhaps it’s the mention of angels, along with the sounds of what appears to be a harp, that make the song so heavenly.

This brings me to my favourite track on the album; Almost Persuaded is rather soulful. Beth’s voice is accompanied by the piano to show off it’s true abilities. In fact, there’s rarely any instruments used to distract you from Beth’s vocals. They are the main attraction. Occasionally they are supported with backing vocals that sound almost choral, but they can carry a note so well unaccompanied that they needn’t be added to.

Similarly, I love the vocals on You Never Called Me Tonight. Telling the story of waiting for a promised phone call when you really should have been doing more with your evening, Beth is able to make this mundane issue far more exciting.

Beautiful Tomorrow shows Beth’s voice in a rather different way to the rest of the album. It sounds as though it should be being played in a cowboy western film with the guitar being strummed in the background.

The final song on the album, is a cover of the classic Be My Baby. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t know it was a cover at first (shoot me now). But even before I was made aware of this, I had already decided that this was my least favourite song on the album. It just doesn’t carry the vocals in the same way as others do.

Joey Ryan – The California EP

Joey Ryan sings some lovely songs. Not heard of him? Well, he sang in the old Hollyoaks adverts. You know, “I went up the mountain to drink from the fountain”. The Extra chewing gum ad, where they rolled down hills? Yes? That was his voice singing. Anyway, that’s not on the CD that I’m reviewing today.

“California, California; Know I love you California”. It appears that Joey Ryan is rather fond of this American State. The California EP is a four track release with California being the opener. If the Californian tourist board are getting a bit fed up of good ol’ Schwarzenegger promoting their fine state, then they should really look to Ryan to use this track in an advert. It makes me want to go there. A lot. He sings of individual cities (San Fran and LA) and enchants you with his vocals.

In contrast, Like A Cloak isn’t such a happy ditty. Not the most sombre on the CD, that’s up next. In fact, I guess it is a happy song when you listen to the lyrics. Lots of similes describing a love that is like no other… apparently. Very acoustic guitar – which I like. And soft vocals – which suit the song.

The stand out song though has to be Giant Clock. Written when Ryan proclaims he was a little depressed, it tells the sorry story of a boy whose father has died. It’s a beautiful story that could quite easily bring you to tears. Focusing on the smaller picture, it revolves around the question of “If I go, who will coach my son’s baseball team?”. There’s no denying that this song is full of emotion. Long breaks within the vocals allow for the guitar music to be the background music to your thoughts. Contemplating your own relationship with your father, you’re made to treasure every moment as Ryan returns to the chorus full of rhetorical questions.

Completing the album is the short track Ride Of Our Lives. Personally, I think it’s the weakest on the CD, but that’s because the competition is pretty strong. The vocals are rather quiet and hence lead to the song fading from your memory after casual listening. Ryan’s got sweet vocals. They aren’t mindblowing by any means. But they make you smile.

And any song that makes me smile is a good song in my books

Missy Higgins – The Sound Of White

The Sound Of White was the first Missy Higgins album to ever grace my ears. It also happened to be her debut album. Despite the title, the sounds that it produced upon my first listen were not screechy and painful; they were something of beauty.

As you listen you discover the perfect balance of heartfelt slow songs with a few upbeat numbers to mix it up. All For Believing was the first mainstream song Missy ever wrote. She wrote it when she was younger than me which makes my achievements in life seem somewhat pathetic. It’s a slow piano track, with heavy lyrics full of metaphor.

I have two versions of Don’t Ever. Whilst I enjoy the album version, it’s the live version which I find particularly impressive. The lyrics are so homely and are sung with such passion that you become enveloped in the song. She describes this perfect neighbourhood in the verses that I think we all can aspire to live in. A neighbourhood where “The butcher Mr Tims will give us discounts when he can”. A neighbourhood where you make friends with the milkman. A neighbourhood that reminds me of a less traumatic Erinsborough!

Scar is one of the few happy songs on the album. Happy probably isn’t really the right word to describe it. It’s got a quick tempo and if you were to gloss over the lyrics you’d probably think it was a ‘happy’ track. But upon a closer listen, you can hear that the lyrics are about not fitting in. Using the clever metaphor of “a triangle trying to squeeze through a circle”, it’s been widely assumed that the song is about Missy’s bisexuality although that is not what Missy wants the focus to be on. It’s a catchy song that did well in the Australian Charts because of it’s great melody.

There’s something about Ten Days that I adore. It’s perfectly paced and the lyrics are typical of Missy’s earlier style without being too depressing. A stereotypical love song it is not, but it’s a Missy love song. And that’s why I love it.

I haven’t listened to Nightminds in a while, which is a shame because I’ve just rediscovered how beautiful it is. Missy’s music is not for you if you want happy-go-lucky pop. It’s cleverly crafted to evoke emotions. Each lyric has clearly been thought through to portray deep emotions and as such can often be misinterpreted as depressing. I have never found Missy’s music to be depressing. Sure, the lyrics can be deep, heavy and sad, but they tell a story. She never writes to depress, she writes with a narrative to pull at your heartstrings so that you empathise with the story that’s being told.

Casualty has a sound that could almost be described as ‘jazzy’. Not jazzy as in ‘Jazz Hands’ or ‘All that Jazz’, but the type of Jazz that I’d imagine to be played in a small smoky jazz club on the outskirts of a large city. Having never been to a jazz club, I cannot state that this is a fact; it’s just how I like to interpret the genre. Anyway, it’s a different song to the rest of the album that matches the powerful notes with some strong vocals.

I love Unbroken. It’s not on all versions of the album. It wasn’t on my CD version so I had to download it when it finally appeared on UK iTunes. The lyrics sing of pregnancy and divorce in the most amazing metaphors; “Two line blue line tragedy” seems to sum up an unwanted pregnancy pretty vividly.

Careful piano playing and slowly sung lyrics are combined to create Any Day Now. Posing rhetorical questions (“What if what we see is all we’ve got?”), Missy knows how to make her listeners think. The verses tell a story very well with the chorus referring back to the questions that would be floating around the character in the song’s mind.

Now for the two songs on the album that I’ll admit could be described as ‘dark’. Katie and The River both appear to sing of young girls who live tough lives. In the latter it sounds as though the character has lived a tough life and took it upon herself to end it. “Somebody’s bed will never be warm again. The river will keep this friend” – It’s not music suited to radio, but both songs are incredibly dramatic and thought provoking. As opposed to literal lyrics, Missy uses metaphors (you may have realised how much I love metaphorical use of language) to describe these situations.

The opening lines in The Special Two set the tone for the rest of the song. It’s apparently a song about Missy and her sister who’d had an argument which has been embellished for the sake of the lyrics. I absolutely adore a question that is posed and answered in a verse of this song. “Is it better to tell and hurt? Or lie to save their face? I guess the answer is don’t do it in the first place.” So true. And yet it rhymes so that it fits beautifully into the song’s rhythm. How on earth Missy manages to make so much sense whilst working of the crafting of a song astounds me. She is one talented girl.

This Is How It Goes has a really lovely beat. It’s faster pace than the majority songs on the album and shines particularly strongly in the chorus. Combining the first and second person, Missy allows the listener to interpret the relationship being sung about in their own way, perhaps even comparing it to their own relationships. Oh, and I have to mention the la-di-da-da’s. They’re rather cool.

The title track was written after the death of Missy’s cousin. The Sound Of White tells of the void left after he passed and how Missy was, one day, sat in a chapel where she is “sure I felt your fingers through my hair”. The song is full of memories that must’ve made the song difficult to write but come across perfectly.

Ending with They Weren’t There, the album doesn’t disappoint at any point. Another piano based song, Missy’s vocal shines throughout. She never feels the need to use any fancy editing tricks to hide her voice. Her voice is so strong that it can be accompanied by the simplest instrument playing to create something truly powerful.

I love this album. Had it never been in the car that we borrowed to drive around Sydney in 2005 I may never have discovered Missy Higgins. And that would’ve been a bit of a tragedy.

Networking: The way to advertise yourself in the media industry?

Every week, in my inbox, I receive a newsletter. In fact, I receive many, many newsletters with the majority being deleted before I even open them. However there is one that I always read with great interest. The Handbook Diary started appearing in my inbox every Monday a few months ago. I can’t actually remember signing up for it but I’m glad I did. It lists events that are going on that week. Amongst the odd Premiere and ExCel exhibitions, there are lots of press events that state “Invite Only”. Why these are publicised I don’t know. But they intrigue me. Today’s offering included two events that I would love to attend: the first being the launch of Dare2, a new high end magazine focussing on being luxurious and ‘good’ to the environment, with the second being the Sticky & Sweet Masterclass at Freggo (part of the Gaucho empire). The former sounds intriguing because it’s a new magazine launching in a time when print media is supposedly a struggling industry and yet Dare2 appears to be promoting their niche angle as being ‘green’. And as for the latter… Food journalism has always been the dream. I’ve left it alone for a while to pursue the more accessible music journalism, but, long before my Food & Travel internship, I knew that food writing was most definitely a career that I’d love to learn more about.

How does one go about getting invited to these ‘Invite Only’ events? I don’t know. But I’d hazard a guess that, as with most aspects of the media industry, it’s about who you know. Knowledge of subjects counts for a small percentage of working your way up the media ladder, knowledge of others further up the industry tends to help a lot more. Thinking about it, even I have benefitted from knowing people; my NatMags work experience was solely because my Dad’s childhood friend goes on annual fishing trips with the head of Sales and Marketing there. Additionally, I was kindly sent the press contact details for the Hard Rock Café and within an hour I’d been guestlisted to the Joshua Radin gig. Would this have happened had I emailed the generic front desk address? I can’t say for sure, but I’m guessing not.

I want to work in the media industry. In fact, I’m currently in the process of applying for another 4Talent scheme (Youth Advisory Panel) in the hope that this will help me gain more skills and knowledge (along with contacts) to progress. But will I get there if I stop attempting to network? Who knows, but I’m not going to risk it. Networking is fun and there is a wealth of knowledge out there that I’d love to have the chance to gain just the tiniest bit of.

So, if anyone wants anything reviewing, be it a music release, event or any other product, please let me know. You can always drop me an email (catherine92.may@btinternet.com) and I’ll be happy to respond to any questions that you may have.

I’m making myself available, so you don’t have to go searching.

Joshua Radin at The Hard Rock Café

When I found out about Joshua Radin playing an intimate Absolute Radio gig at the Hard Rock Café, I knew I had to go. An intimate venue, I’d previously read a review of a John Mayer gig there which I genuinely would have given my life to go and see. But how to get a ticket when they weren’t for sale and I was a month to young to enter the competitions to win them? Fortunately, I asked a very similar question to this on Twitter and a helpful guy pointed me in the right direction and before I knew it I was on the Guestlist.

I travelled alone to the gig. Having never been guestlisted and with no mention of a +1, I wrongly assumed that I wouldn’t have been entitled to one. So when I got there and was faced with the question of “Have you not brought a friend?” I looked a little confused and politely said “No”, making myself look like a little bit of a loner. And so I continued to fulfil this persona in silence for twenty minutes or so before I found some lovely people at the front to talk to.

Although, I wasn’t exactly alone to begin with. I had free food. Now, I’d heard rumours of free food being on offer at the Hard Rock Café shows, but remained sceptical and decided to eat before going there. This was a mistake. Upon my arrival, I was welcomed by waitresses holding trays of beers, wines and finger food. ALL COMPLIMENTARY. Not being one to miss out on free food, I tried a chicken piece and my first ever mini burger. I could have eaten so much but unfortunately my stomach was screaming against it.

Rumours had been floating around that Lissie was to support Radin, however shortly before the show, a smiling waitress informed us that she’d cancelled at the last minute because she’d got a call to do Jules Holland. I’d say that’s understandable enough. And it meant that we got to see Joshua Radin earlier as he casually strolled up onto the small stage at half past eight.

He immediately created a relaxed atmosphere, talking with the audience about football teams in order to gage the type of audience that we were. He plugged in his guitar and looked set to start before deciding there was no need for an amp and played a completely acoustic version of No Envy No Fear less than a metre away from me. No mic was needed as his vocals filled the room, turning a song that I’d previously overlooked on Simple Times, into some incredible. Changing the lengths of key notes, I became aware that Radin likes to play around with his songs to make a great live set.

Telling us the story behind One of Those Days, Radin described it as a song about a serious break up where (after a year of being depressed) he decided the best thing to do was to write a song. And I’m glad he did, because it’s a lovely song that I can find optimism from even if that was not his intention.

After having written depressing songs for a while, Radin decided that he couldn’t release an album full of them as nobody would buy it. So one morning he woke up and wrote Brand New Day, describing it as a “happy song”. It’s one of my favourites and I was not disappointed with this live performance. Stunning vocals were combined with beautiful guitar playing from him and his lone band mate Brendan.

The only song to be played from We Were Here, Radin’s debut album, was Only You. A song which, in fact, appears twice on said album, has a version mixed by the British Imogen Heap and hence Radin found a way to connect it to his British Audience. Another way that he tried to bond with us was his humorous description of the offside rule. Struggling to find the right words, an audience member had to shout out “attackers” after Radin had worked his way through describing the players as offence, forwards and left and right wings. Not only was the venue extremely intimate (I’d say that there were about a hundred of us lucky people there), but Radin made it even more personal. He willingly bantered with the crowd, agreeing to going to a football match with one couple, before jokingly disclosing “this is just for radio, I don’t really know you, we’re not really going”.

Unplugging his guitar once more, Radin took to the front of the stage to play a song that will appear on his third album which Radin told me he was currently mixing. Titled The Ones With The Light, Radin decided that audience participation would add to the song so split us in two, giving each side of the room a line from the chorus to sing/shout/destroy. It was a catchy song which I look forward to owning upon the third album’s release.

To end his short set, Radin plugged his guitar in to sing a version of I’d Rather Be With You that is likely to be played repetitively on Absolute Radio for a while. A beautiful song anyway, the close proximity that we had to Radin made the song even more stunning.

After he left the stage, my new found friends in the audience immediately grabbed him for a photo before he fled to the green room. Not wanting to miss out, I stayed around (with others) for a good half an hour or so, making the most of the complimentary chocolate brownies, before the man himself casually strolled into the venue in the same relaxed manner that he’d approached the stage. He was extremely lovely, posing for photos and genuinely seemed interested in making conversation with his fans.

A lovely ending to a lovely gig. It might have been short, but the hospitality of the venue and of Radin himself made it a memorable night. With plenty more live performances coming up at the Hard Rock Café (Katie Melua is there tonight) I just hope that this won’t be my last there.

Joshua Radin at The Hard Rock Café for Absolute Radio
4th May 2010
http://www.hardrock.com/Locations/Cafes3/events.aspx?LocationID=91&MIBenumID=3