Cappa gets all neon pop on her debut EP, and it’s a joy to behold!
Carla Cappa has been busy over the last year. Firstly she releases a slew of singles that showcased her neon skewed pop. These songs tap directly in to that 1980’s retro vibe that is massive at the moment. But Cappa this isn’t just a genre jumper, she understands the codes and conventions of not only synthwave, but of contemporary pop music.
Cappa’s debut EP Queen of Hearts is a brooding coming of age story told with delicious pop melodies and hooks, but as Cappa herself explained “This is the kind of music I’ve always wanted to do, and the songs are mostly about discovering myself and also about how much I hate dating”.
Now her video for her recent single Next Ex has been released. Directed by Casey Cross, Ke$ha collaborator, and filmed in Nashville on a set that resembled a hibachi restaurant which a ceiling full of Japanese paper lanterns, Next Ex is a neon wonder that matches not just the sparkle of the song, but its power and elegance.
Queen of Hearts is out now
Nashville trio make London debut with intimate showcase
“Thank you, you’ve been so kind on our debut” diminutive Emily Barker exclaims after their last song, but this is getting ahead of ourselves, let’s track back a bit first. Applewood Road are a country/folk trio from Nashville consisting of Barker, Amber Rubarth and Amy Speace. The music they make is honest and has a classic timeless quality to it. When you first hear their music you’re trying to work out if it’s an old Carter Family cover or an original, as it’s that amaranthine.
Their story is as organic as the music they make. In September 2014 Barker and Rubarth were set for a song writing session and went for a coffee before-hand. While chatting they contacted Speace who joined them. The original session never happened, but something else did. They wrote the song Applewood Road that day, and the band was formed. After recording their debut album in Nashville on vintage analogue recording equipment, they signed with London’s finest and analogue magpies, Gearbox Records, who in recent years have released debut albums from Michael Horovitz, Binker & Moses and Kate Tempest.
Ok, let’s jump to the present now. On a wet October evening we find ourselves walking to Tileyard Studios, behind one of London’s busiest transport hubs, because Applewood Road are making their London debut. Not big enough. OK, how about their UK debut? Still not enough, ok I’ll try again. Applewood Road are making their debut appearance outside of Nashville. When we arrive we’re greeted like old friends by Gearbox supremo Darrel Sheinman and Adam Sieff. After a brief catch Applewood Road take up their positions and their set begins.
Opening with the breath-takingly simple lead single, Applewood Road. Within seconds the room is filled with one of the most beautiful and transfixing three part harmonies I’ve ever heard. Time stops, the outside world blurs into insignificance and all everyone in the room is focusing on, and only thinking about are these three girls and their siren-esque vocals. After the song finished there is a brief pause, as everyone picks their jaws off the floor, before a barrage of applause. The girls slightly blush, say thank you, then jump straight into the next number To the Stars. This is another captivating number. Instead of just three part harmonies and an acoustic guitar, their throw a banjo into the mix. The banjo gives the song jaunty bootleggers party feel and if the setting was less formal, people would have been jigging. Old Country Song was up next the lyric “Sounds so sweet until it’s gone, like an old country song, playing on the jukebox” sums it up the song and the band perfectly.
As the set progressed so did their confidence, which added to the performance. For I’m Not Afraid, which was the first time it had been played live, they moved to a piano. Giving the intimate setting of the venue, and song took on a family gathering vibe, when people used to crowd around the old piano everyone either sung or played ‘their song’. Up until this point all the songs have only featured the girls and predominately guitars, but on Honey Won’t You, Sheinman joined them on a snare drum. Before they launched into it Barker said how during the session Sheinman had joined them on snare, but he had to play with paint brushes, as they didn’t have anything other than standard drum stick. It was one of the stand out songs in the set. Sheinman’s drumming had a hint of Orange Blossom Special to it. After Honey Won’t You, they closed the set with Lovin’ Eyes. Another absorbing exercise in harmony and guitars. After they finished the limited crown erupted in applause and whistles. Applewood Road blushed, again, said thank you and left the performance area.
What made Applewood Road so mesmerising is their simplicity. One acoustic guitar, or banjo and three part harmonies. That’s it. There is nowhere to hide in a dynamic like that. Either you can do it, or you can’t and Applewood Road can! The clarity of their voices is beyond belief. Their songs are starkly honest. Themes of love, rejection and redemption pepper their music, which plays into the original country/folk ethos. This is a small band with a bright future, let’s just hope that they don’t move too far away from their roots on Applewood Road.
Their debut album is released through Gearbox Records in February 2016
Final album from rock’s last true maverick is a rollercoaster ride of heartache and lounge lizard garage rock
Earlier this year a true maverick of alternative music passed away. Dave Cloud was only 58 years old when in February he died of a long undetermined illness. Throughout his career Cloud made an uncompromising blend of outsider garage rock and pulp fiction style poetry. If you think of The Stooges covering Neil Diamond while a very inebriated and mumbling Charles Bukowski fronts the whole thing you’re on the right track.
Cloud’s final album has now been released, the uncannily morbidly titled Today is the Day That They Take Me Away. It’s everything we’ve gone to expect from the “garage rock lounge lizard extraordinaire”. At just shy of ninety minutes, it’s the longest album in Cloud’s canon, but given the nature of the recording process, Cloud was alleged to be writing and recording new songs up until his death, this is his White Album.
During the first listen Today is the Day That They Take Me Away doesn’t appear to have any inroads. It’s all too dense and boggy, and just when you think you’ve found a route, you’re marooned in a swamp. Some tracks sound like they were recorded trough an inch of treacle as you can’t make the music out apart from a wall of muffled noise and primal grunty vocals. However the more you listen, the more you pick out. Luscious melodies shoulder barge lo-fi garage boogie bangers. Opening track ‘Bimbo’ fades in quietly then jumps straight into what only sounds like a Velvet Underground jam track at the Factory in 1969. This motif is used a few times throughout and album. When Cloud’s vocals finally emerge the verses are garbled and the chorus is “Bimbo. You’re my number one, you’re number one. Bimbo. You’re my only one, you’re my only one” is grunted more or less in time. As with all great Dave Cloud tracks the lyrics sound spontaneous, almost to the point that he didn’t realise what he was going to sing until he’d sung them. ‘Just Like You’ follows on musically and lyrically. Cloud growls “It’s just like you to take everything for granted girl. What about that brand new ring, that string of pearls?” Even near the end of his life, women problems weren’t far away. ‘DNA’ is more melancholic and reflective “I’m not a loser anymore. You know what I’m living for”. Is this aimed at us, an ex or the grim reaper himself? An organ keeps everything grounded as Cloud’s vocals rasp and grate over twangy lead guitar and scratchy acoustics.
The title track musically sounds like a cover of ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ by someone who’s had a guitar for twenty minutes and is playing along but not knowing any of the notes or chords. What could have been a real tear jerker, is in fact a joyous and life affirming jaunt. This is the power of Cloud’s music. Even when things are looking bad, Cloud still manages to create a good time vibe. The next few tracks feel like a suite. ‘Thieving Love Bandit’, ‘Party Girl’, ‘He Not a She’ and ‘400 Girls’ are all slow burners on which Cloud really lets rip not only with this blend of romantically forlorn beat poetry, but with his reimaging of lounge music. Slow and sleazy is the order of the day. The real star of the show is lead single ‘Damn, Damn, Damn, Damn’. This is quite possibly the most touching song Cloud ever released. When he croons “All my life, I’ve been looking for alabaster girl” you’re heart breaks as you never know if he found her or not. Sources close to Cloud said he considered it the best thing he ever wrote. The rest of the album is upbeat and classic Cloud. The only curve ball happens on ‘Oh No, She’s Mine’. At just shy of ten minutes is sounds like a recorded jam session that Cloud and co were either enjoying too much to stop or a thought out free jam based around a rigid rhythmic structure. Overall it doesn’t matter as it shows side to Cloud’s career and is the fitting final memory of this his farewell album.
You could never say that Cloud’s previous albums were ‘polished’ but Today is the Day That They Take Me Away has more in common with early albums Songs I Will Always Sing, All My Best. Murky production coupled with indecipherably opaque lyrics are in contrast to the slick production of his 2008 album Practice in the Milky Way. It almost as if Cloud has gone full circle and ended where he started, plundering the 1960s garage sound and swagger while and shouting into the well of rock. That being said Today is the Day They Take Me Away is a fitting closure to an original and unique career. At times the album is overwhelming and fractured, but so was Cloud and his existing back catalogue. Would the album have been more concise at only seventeen tracks? Possibly. Would it have been more enjoyable? Not a chance! What we are left with are twenty seven tracks from one of alternative rock’s more individual and distinctive talents. Which is passing the hold of inertia over contemporary music got a little tighter. Damn, damn, damn, damn…