I write this at the end of what I think has been a spectacular year for new music locally and here’s to another in 2018.
Let’s begin with a celebration of a few essential albums, starting with Alex Highton’s ‘Welcome to Happiness’ which arrived in CD form through my letterbox just a couple of weeks ago. After pledging towards this production (a few years ago now!), I had already been enjoying the downloaded version of what I believe to be Alex’s best work to date. I would argue that the album is more of a true reflection of who Alex is as an artist at the moment. For the most part, he has taken the acoustic guitar out of the equation. This is a brave thing to do, given that we tend to always see Alex playing one when we see him live. His wonderful debut album ‘The Woodditton Wives Club’ adopts a largely acoustic approach, and that remained on album two ‘Nobody Knows Anything,’ although there were hints on tracks like Panic, It’s and It Falls Together that Alex was keen on moving in a direction a little more left of centre. He’s done this with great gusto on the latest record, bringing in plenty of electronics and keys and pitching them perfectly on occasions alongside strings and brass. The album showcases his songwriting talents even more, as they continue to shine within these more challenging arrangements. Opening track ‘Benny is a Heartbreaker’ has already received plays from Tom Robinson on BBC 6 Music. ‘Love is Enough’ and ‘I Don’t Have a Clue How to Fill You Cup’ are further standouts in another essential listen.
Prior to ‘Welcome to Happiness’ I had been enjoying (and continue to enjoy) ‘Luna,’ the second album from Izzy’s Daughter. Some incredible talents have been involved in the production of this particular masterpiece, not least recording engineer George Perks, pianist Phil Jackson, bassist Jay Goodrich and drummer Kris Last. But the obvious standout among standouts is the voice. Izzy’s Daughter goes beyond what I thought was previously possible in terms of evoking all the emotions. There is light, shade, and haunting qualities throughout. ‘Are you There’ is simply stunning. I’ve not heard anything more beautiful and am unlikely to. Wolves, Echoes and Lullaby are further gems, while album closer Dawn is eerily euphoric and would sit well in an epic period drama production, such as Last of the Mohicans (which I believe she is a fan of).
Earlier in the year, Plaitum’s ‘Constraint’ and Rad Pitt’s ‘Pink’ were two more records that rocked my world and they still enjoy plenty of love. Both bands would feature in any live music highlights montage of mine from 2017. It was wonderful to hear the former stripped back and raw in our live room back in April during the week of their album release. Yearning, Ovation, Eagle and Grace Hits were all effortlessly put down to a ridiculously high standard, in a session that lasted less than 20 minutes. Why do another take if the first one is perfect? Pitt’s performance at Henham Park a few months later provided me with ultimate Latitude satisfaction. A similar amount of time, but triple the amount of songs and energy. Amazing scenes from the raddest band on the planet.
Of course 2017 was also the year of Bessie Turner at Latitude, and what might she achieve in 2018?! As I write, it feels like a Bessie baton is being passed from BBC Introducing in Suffolk to Jo Whiley at BBC Radio 2. Likewise, Gaffa Tape Sandy are turning heads with the nationals in Manchester and London. Let’s hope more people discover the wonders of Bury St Edmunds rock city as a result. Early next year GTS will be sadly absent from the list of amazing headliners at BurySound (I’m assuming this is down to university commitments in Brighton), although Bessie will be a star attraction at heat one on 26 January. Stretch Soul Gang, A Horse Called War, Tundra, War Waves and Amethysts will also be a part of a stellar line up for the music competition in what will be it’s 20th anniversary year. There are some amazing prospects involved, including Kyanos, Lemondaze, Saltfen, Shannon Elsden, Deep City and KULK, who joined us recently for our final live session of 2017. Some words from singer (shouter!) and guitarist Thom stood out during the interview that night. He talked about him and Jade being intent on making the type of music they wanted to make and not making music in a certain way just to please others and be popular. I like that ethos. Be yourself, that’s what’s really cool.
A final word for the rap, hip-hop and grime artists of Suffolk that continue to produce track after track of quality in seemingly effortless fashion.Flexx Tyler, one half of Not Famous drops his new Xidontlie album early in the new year, while Piers James will no doubt have his eye on more festival appearances after a euphoric set in the woods at Henham Park last July. I’m also hoping for more from Troy and definitely Indigo Frequency.
Until next time. Gotta go. In my cup I got Limoncello.