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Artist Spotlight – Benjamin Clementine


Musicheads,

 

Just this past week, the annual Mercury Music Prize was awarded for the UK album of the year and to much surprise,the announced winner was the début album from UK artist Benjamin Clementine, At Least For Now.

While this came as a surprise to many given the strength of the nominated class which included UK powerhouses Florence + The Machine, Aphex Twin and Jamie xx, as well as other relative newcomers in SOAKESKA and Wolf Alice; if you actually listen to his album, it will come as no real surprise.

Benjamin Clementine’s voice is out of this world.  A rich timbre and powerful intonation are at the forefront of his vocal prowess.  His evocative music is both heartfelt and intense, while his tenor range is also stupendous.  His début album released over the summer and immediately was placed on the short list for the Mercury Prize.  A Ghanaian immigrant, Clementine made a name for himself busking in Paris before being picked up on the festival circuit for a brief period of time and playing on Later… with Jools Holland before acquiring a major label deal.  A trained poet and pianist, it is very apparent in his music as his lyrics are quite verbose and accompaniment is often simply piano.  As the weather turns colder, his music warms your soul.  At Least For Now features a number of standout tracks that must be heard and enjoyed.  The biggest tracks from the album have to be Cornerstone, London, Adios and Nemesis.  Each song offers something a bit different while all still being incredibly powerful.  His spinto tenor voice rings through on each track as the focal point and you can’t help but be sucked in.  If you enjoy those shared below, you definitely will not want to miss the rest of this spectacular arrangement of music.  His music reminds me of another British singer-songwriter who also was a Mercury Music Prize nominee a few years back with her very own début album, Laura Mvula. Her début Sing To The Moon was immensely powerful, however she did not come away the prize that year simply due to the tremendous pool of nominees that year (see the incredibly talented 2013 shortlist for Album of the Year Here).  The Mercury Prize has always held a special place in my heart as all British Invasion music has played such a strong determinant and influence in my musical upbringing and so I always try to explore all the albums on the shortlist each year both for their diversity and their talent.  While I had initially thought the judges had made the wrong decision this year with their choice of winner, Benjamin Clementine won me over as I delved ever deeper into his music and his voice.  I look forward to his next creation with eager anticipation.

Artist Info:

Artist Site: http://www.benjaminclementine.com/

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/benjamin-clementine

Facebook: Benjamin Clementine

YouTube: Benjamin Clementine

Twitter: @MrBClementine

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-Akwitz

Now Playing: Benjamin Clementine – Cornerstone

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Artist Spotlight – Novo Amor


Musicheads,

Are you a fan of Bon Iver?  Well look no further for the next acoustic folk artist from a similar vein, Novo Amor.

UK singer, songwriter and producer, Novo Amor (aka Ali Lacey) has everything you want in the ethereal acoustic folk genre.  Lacey uses masterful production skills to create massive soundscapes with acoustic guitar and piano and the occasional percussion and synthesizer.  Pair this with soulful falsetto vocals for tracks of atmospheric proportions.  This could not be any more present than on the single From Gold.

On another fantastic track, Faux, Novo Amor partners with Ed Tullett for an even richer sound with strong harmonies and stellar production value.

I will highlight one more track, as you can find more of his music on any of the many avenues below if you dig his sound.  The final track I will share is Holland.

The percussive support and meandering acoustic guitar riff really drive this song forward along with the flourishes of keyboard add to an immensely powerful track.

Truly, the only drawback to Novo Amor’s music is simply the fact that Justin Vernon beat him to the punch in terms of the musical style, so he will ultimately always be compared to him and potentially labelled a copycat. If you ignore this fact though, you can really enjoy some soothing atmospheric mood music.

Band Info:

Band Site: http://novoamor.co.uk/

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/novo-amor

Facebook: Novo Amor Songs

YouTube: Novo Amor

Twitter: @nvoamr

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-Akwitz

Now Playing: Novo AmorWoodgate, NY (EP)


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Artist Spotlight – Mini Mansions


Musicheads,

There are plenty of emotions one can feel for Mini Mansions.

This LA trio have quite the dark side to them.  Their dark pop sound is quite unique to the scene these days.  Equipped with all kinds of instrumental arrangements, vocal modifications and star power support, these fellas are primed to hit it big in 2015.

The band is composed of Zach Dawes, Tyler Parkford, and Queens of the Stone Age bassist Michael Shuman.   The group arose out of a hiatus QOTSA back in 2009 and at that time the band released their début album, an 8-track self-titled EP, followed by a full-length self-titled LP the following year.  Their sophomore effort, The Great Pretendersjust dropped last week and ought to be a game-changer for the group.  

The band’s sound is a dark heady trip.  While the tracks are often quite catchy, with simple, bouncy beats, the lyrics are a much different story.  Tracks such as Freakout!, Death Is A GirlVertigo and Creeps all allude to some sort of ominous Hitchcock-ian reality.  Partner the lyrics and strange vocal modulations with “slightly left of center” music videos and you’ve got some oddity for better or for worse.

On top of all this, they were able to pull some very big names to feature on a few of their singles.  The legendary Brian Wilson needs to no introduction and is featured in the track in the first video in this post, along with Colin Hanks who shows off his acting chops in the accompanying video.  They also were able to grab the Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner for a feature on the track Vertigo.

To top it all off, the band is currently on tour supporting a stellar UK rock duo that broke on the scene hard and fast late in 2014, Royal Blood.  In all reality, that sounds like quite the tour and one would expect a stellar live performance from both bands.

So, once you get past all the star power and singles, does the band have the musical chops to stick around?  I think, yes!  Tracks like Honey, I’m Home and Mirror Mountain are creative and enjoyable.  Plus, when you can cover Blondie tracks like they do, how can that be bad?

Band Info:

Band Site: http://www.minimansionsmusic.com/

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/minimansions

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Facebook: Mini Mansions

YouTube: MiniMansionsVEVO

Instagram: MiniMansions

Twitter: @MiniMansions

 

-Akwitz

Now Playing: Mini Mansions – Heart Of Glass