Tag Archives: Red Ropes

Nicole Atkins – Slow Phaser (album review)

28 Apr

Nicole Atkins Slow Phaser

Recently, during our 24 hour charity blogathon in fact, Nicole Atkins’ latest album, Slow Phaser, was streaming in its entirety online. Despite a strong urge, we had to resist the temptation to just sit and listen to it. We knew that if we did, the blogathon would be detrimentally affected as we’d just want to hear it again and again, and as such our writing would dry up. It was a tough choice but one we’re glad we made as not only did we raise a fair chunk of change for Cancer Research but it meant that we could come back to Nicole at a later date and give Slow Phaser the care and attention it deserved.

Now, having spent a few weeks with the album in the lead up to its UK release we know we made the right choice. The ease with which our finger has slipped to repeat and the CD has been left to simply re-start justifies our decision to wait until the Blogathon was complete before listening properly. There is so much on offer in Atkins third full length release that you will want to pour over it, devour and savour each morsel of this feast of musical tapas.

There are styles aplenty, themes and emotions a go go but most of all, throughout the entire album there is an overwhelming sense of creativity, of imagination and of deep shadowy undercurrents. Woven within each aspect there is always sadness, heartache, melancholy and despair. Even on lead single “Girl You Look Amazing”, which is a disco fuelled dance floor filling lightshow of a song, there is the sadness of a wasted life laid bare for all to see.

There’s pop music, indie, folk, disco, a show tune and even a hymn of sorts; each one sounding as confident and as accomplished as the last. “Cool People” and “We Wait Too Long” in particular are infectious little indie-pop numbers, our favourite (still) “Red Ropes” is a film noir and “It’s Only Chemistry” an alt-folk sing-along anthem.

It’s quality song writing, musicianship and storytelling. It’s dark and twisted, light and breezy and mesmeric. It’s Nicole at her best and it’s right up there with the albums of the year so far.

‘Slow Phaser’ is now out in the UK and available to buy on iTunes.


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2013 Tracks Of The Year – #5 – 1

11 Dec

Tracks of 2013 - 5-1

It’s the final countdown, as some wise men once sang, as today we reach the Top 5, and therefore the pinnacle, of our Tracks of the Year feature. When we started the list on Monday, we noted that ” These then are the tracks that really stood out and stayed with us across the year, and we mean the whole year, many of these tracks have been out a number of months and we keep coming back to them time and time again, that’s how good they are”, and you’ll see from the list below that we weren’t joking. All five tracks were released in the first half of the year and three of them before March was over.

Often tracks from the beginning of a year can get forgotten, overtaken by newer, shinier songs that are fresh in the mind and ears. But these five have remained fresh in our ears because their quality is so high, we haven’t really stopped listening to them since they came out.

Before we tell you what they are, here’s a quick link-a-thon to the other Tracks of the Year posts and the previous 20 of our favourite songs of 2013.

Part One – Tracks #25 – 21
Part Two – Tracks #20 – 16
Part Three – Tracks #15 – 11
Part Four – Tracks #10 – 6

Now then, here we go with our Top 5 favourite tracks of 2013. Enjoy.


#5 Sivu – “Better Man Than He”

The debut track of our number one artist to Listen Out For in 2014, Sivu’s “Better Man Than He” probably resonates and touches us more now, nearly a whole year after it was released, than it did when we first heard it. Brimming with elegance and sophistication, it is blessed with the kind of understated beauty that can take your breath away. It sounds so simple but the sounds have been deftly woven by a skilled craftsman to disguise their intricacy as well as their intimacy. It was written for a friend who was battling depression, offering them hope and a light ahead in the form of delicate and enchanting melodies, and it is this poignancy and heartfelt emotion that helps set it apart even from his most recent and spectacular tunes.


#4 Young Hunting – “Annabelle”

One of the greatest pieces of musical storytelling we heard all year came from Los Angeles quintet, Young Hunting. The standout track of a wondrously understated and gorgeous debut album, “Annabelle” might just be one of the most heartwrenchingly beautiful things we’ve ever heard. There are no extraneous flourishes; no flamboyances and each detail augments the narrative of the lyrics and aural caresses of the musical arrangements. The drumbeat acts as harbinger of the woe to come, a slowed down take on the drums that would precede an execution, and the trumpets which join as denouement is reached are a mournful lament for the loss experienced. It sounds divine, gentle melodies and almost imperceptible nuances within that stir your soul and send your heartstrings reverberating like crazy.



#3 Chvrches – “Gun”

Choosing our favourite Chvrches track is a bit like trying to choose which superpower you would have. They are all so damn good and exciting that one just isn’t enough. But, we made the rule of one track per artist so here we are, having to make Lauren’s choice. We’ve gone for the uplifting and kaleidoscopic “Gun”, not least because we’ve choreographed a pretty amazing firework display to it in our head. The beat crashes and explodes with 808 style drums, cymbals and handclaps splashing like aforementioned fireworks. The synths shoot across the night sky entwined with Lauren’s so-sweet, sometimes breathy and occasionally almost demure vocals, dancing into the drums before the track quietens down as the display looks to be ending, only to fire off one last great crescendo of light and sound.



#2 Curxes – “Further Still”

Despite having a relatively quiet 2013, over the last 12 months Curxes have become one of our favourite young bands around. So much so that we invited them to play on our stage at Norwich Sound and Vision this year. Much of this love was stirred when they released the amazingly dark and refined sounds of “Further Still”. Beginning with some sinister and uneasy sounding operatics, the kind you’d have coming out over the PA during morning exercise at a Stepford holiday camp, all pastel shades and rictus grins, “Further Still” soon steps into an eerily still backroom. Roberta’s vocals take over and blend with the suddenly more liquid sound of Curxes before that too starts to evolve and solidify into head-nod-making beats. Dark, emotional and subtle, it whispers where you might expect a roar, even as the drama is ramped up it tip-toes through the sterile rooms behind the bright primary colours of the camp outside, scalpel in hand as it comes to slice into our ears and implant itself there for evermore.



#1 Nicole Atkins – “Red Ropes”

We knew when we first heard “Red Ropes” that it was something special and we knew it would most likely feature in the upper echelons of our end of year list. Then we played it again and again and again. We played it when we went on Amazing Radio for the first time, we played it to anyone who would listen and we loved it more and more each time we did. It’s a slow burning track, full of gentle drama at first before taking on an altogether more dense and powerful conclusion with the addition of choral backing vocals as Nicole Atkins‘ soft vocals reach up with increasing force. It is cinematic in feel, Lynchian almost (but less confusing) with that sort of retro-noir style to it that Tarantino can do so well too. Sun-bleached images of a damsel not in distress but with a will of iron and capable of outwitting all around her are evoked as it swells and soars. The influence of her co-writer, Mr. Jim Sclavunos (Grinderman/The Bad Seeds) is apparent in its darkness, its rawness, honesty and power. We adore it and as we began to put this list together, with all the jostling and re-positioning that went on as we considered all the tracks (and others), not once did it move from the top spot.



So there you have it, our favourite tracks of the year.
We’ll post a full list at the weekend with a playlist of all the tracks for your delectation but tell us what you think. What did we miss and what would make your list?

Listen: Nicole Atkins – “Red Ropes”

25 Mar

Nicole Atkins

When someone hails from a town called Neptune (New Jersey) there’s an immediate temptation to reach for the big book of puns and flick to the section marked, ‘out of this world’. To do so for Nicole Atkins would be disingenuous for two simple reasons, firstly her music deserves much better than cheap puns and secondly, she and her music are considerably more down to earth.

On her latest track, “Red Ropes”, she flirts with a dark, bluesy pop sound that frankly Lana would have killed for, and that evokes memories of the still-amazing “Goodnight Moon” by Shivaree. It’s a slow burning track, full of gentle drama at first before taking on an altogether more dense and powerful conclusion with the addition of choral backing vocals as Nicole’s soft vocals reach up with increasing force. It is quite cinematic in feel, it has that sort of retro-noir style to it that Tarantino can do so well, suggesting lots of sun-bleached images or a damsel not in distress but with a will of iron and capable of outwitting all around her. The influence of her co-writer, Mr. Jim Sclavunos (Grinderman/The Bad Seeds) is there, it’s dark, raw, honest and powerful. In other words, we love it.

“Red Ropes” is taken from her forthcoming third album, Slow Phaser, and Nicole is currently on tour in the UK supporting Eels.


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