Posts Tagged ‘Indie’

28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

In a format frenzy reminiscent of Mansun back in the late 90s and around the turn of the millennium, which saw the band release around two albums’ worth of material as B-sides over the course of just three or four years, this is the first of a two-part double EP release from Londonites Latenight Honeymoon. It’s a set that wasn’t only written and recorded during lockdown, but that is a product of lockdown in it lyrical explorations, manifesting as a raw, vivid, visceral and personal working through the anxiety, tension, anguish, and insomnia of living life in social separation.

The band’s biographical details may be sparse, and if on one hand it may be frustrating, it’s maybe a strong positive, in that the focus is on the music itself. Does anyone actually need to know who does what? No, of course not: that’s all ego. The singer doesn’t have a conventionally musical voice, but does have a way for delivering a lyric – which always worked more than adequately for Morrissey, Mark E. Smith, and John Lydon, among many others. Rock, pop, and punk aren’t about perfect pitch, but about communicating in a way that registers on an emotional level. And here’s a lot of emotion on the songs on offer here, to the extent that I do feel like I’m being dragged through someone’s lockdown trauma and the correspondent emotional ups and downs as I listen to this EP.

Lead track, ‘Afterglow’ has a certain swing to it, a post-punk indie cross with a dash of funk and blue-eyed soul infused into the spring-stepped guitars that bounce, crisp and clean, over a light-footed rhythm section. The band describe the song as ‘an ode to all the healthy relationships transformed into nightmares thanks to the unprecedented times we find ourselves in. Communicating so inhumanly via the phone screens we are chained too,’ [sic] and it’s likely universally relatable. Hands up who doesn’t miss people, or at least some people?

‘If it’s not your fault / then it must be mine’ the singer sings on ‘B.S.T.’, a heavy hint of resignation in his voice, and it’s a lack of conviction and a sense of hollowness that colours the lines ‘Oh baby please don’t worry / I think were both gonna be alright / in spite of tonight / 2020 / How could you do this to me?’

The vocals are particularly raw and ragged on ‘[What If?]’, landing somewhere between Kurt Cobain and Shane McGowan as he hollers every last ounce of anguish and a piano played heavy-handed hits the mark as the lyrics reprise the chorus of ‘Afterglow’, while referencing Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 18’ and Tennyson. There’s no shame in poeticism or literary referencing, and it rounds off the EP nicely.

Given that they’ve already scored some high-profile support slots, this EP is bound to only enhance their reputation and solidify their fanbase, and deservedly so.

Stream the EP by clicking the image below.

BST EP final

7th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Having built themselves a solid fanbase since their formation in 2017, with a series of single and EP releases, supported by some live shows primarily in their regional territory of Kent, Salvation Jayne have been going from strength to strength.

As has been the situation for so many bands, lockdown has put paid to pretty much all activity: gigs simply can’t happen, rehearsal rooms and studios have been closed, and it’s not been feasible for many artists to record at home for various reasons, not least of all not being allowed indoors together.

Despite all of the hot air and rhetoric and the unprecedented use of the word unprecedented, the 1918 so-called Spanish flu pandemic bears remarkable similarities to the present, and it’s like we’ve learned nothing in the last century. However, two major differences are that in 2020, we have the Internet to connect us, to spread misinformation, and to perform live streams and so on, and exchange chunks of audio.

For Salvation Jayne, exchanging chunks of audio wasn’t conducive to the creation of new material, but did facilitate a quite unexpected project, whereby other people could put their spin on cuts from the band’s back catalogue by means of some remixes.

For this project, they’ve enlisted a diverse array of collaborators: John Tufnell (Saint Agnes) – Black Heart; Jericho Tozer (SKIES) – Coney Island, Baby!; Eden Gallup (Violet Vendetta) – Cortez; Sara Leigh Shaw (The Pearl Harts) – Juno; Fuji Hideout – Tongue Tied, Tiiva – Jayne Doe. And at launch, they donated the proceeds of sales from Bandcamp to Refuge.

Witnessing bands so sorely deprived of income using their art for the greater good has been one of the most heartwarming things about lockdown: infinitely more meaningful than clapping for NHS workers in a display of virtue-signalling solidarity, artists making genuine sacrifices for charities spanning foodbanks, support for the homeless and mental health support shows where the real heart is. It’s always the grass roots acts passing up on Royalties, too, not fucking Bono imploring punters to donate, and that’s significant too. This is real charity.

It also matters that the product is of a certain quality, and this really is there: these remixes showcase the breadth of Salvation Jayne’s material, which may be rooted in solid alt-rock with more classic twists, but are well-suited to adaption.

The Saint Agnes Lockdown remix of ‘Black Heart’ explodes in a blast of abrasive noise and steers the song into a kind of early 00’s Pitchshifter industrial noise and distortion space, with pounding percussion and slabs of overdriven guitar backing Chess’ fuzzed-out vocal. With more disco-orientated verses, it shouldn’t work, but it does, and what’s more, it packs some real groove.

The Pearl Hearts’ take on ‘Juno’ is another stomper, disco beats cranked up to industrial strength, and this take also has a much harder edge than the original, and it works surprisingly well, as does ‘Coney Island, Baby!’, when SKIES sub the post-punk feel of the original version with something slower, heavier, more industrial, then sling in some epic strings on top. The result is pretty spectacular.

‘Cortez’ is a standout in the SJ catalogue, and to hear it pumped up, grooved up, and sped up is a major rush, and the same is true of ‘Jayne Doe’, released in May of this year and here given a radical and full-on dance reworking. It may divide the fans but it’s important that the band continue to push their parameters instead of limiting their horizons. Ultimately, this is what the remixes EP is all about: Salvation Jayne may be a rock band with a certain post-punk leanings, but above all they’re a band who don’t want to be pinned to a style, and a band with range, and these remixes showcase both the sound and progressive attitude perfectly.

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Weeping Prophet Records – 31st July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The facts and the pitch are that Fuse Box City is a new London based band. They combine indie and electronic with noise and melody; the intricate layering of which produces a rich sound that provides a platform for Rachel Kenedy’s fragile yet mellifluous vocals to sit on top. Talking about the stuff that matters all in the same breath.

I like hybridity and eclecticism, and have developed an increasing appreciation of some of the 80s samplist / looping acts that broke through in the late 80s. It wasn’t immediately apparent at the time, but this wasn’t about simply making dance music and turntable scratching and drum machines: this was utilising emerging technology to create a soundtrack to our ever-faster, ever more fragmented experience of life.

Revisiting the spirit of then makes sense to an extent: we’re witnessing even less comprehensible times, even faster, more fragmentary lives, and even niftier tech while in a position to cast an eye back over recent history.

But sometimes blending lo-fi indie and experimental electronica and throwing in bits of prog and 80s hip-hop means the elements don’t always gel especially well, and ‘Shine On’ makes for a shaky, somewhat chaotic and disjointed start.

Maybe it’s a matter of adjustment, or maybe the band really do find their groove better as the album progresses, and it’s when they slow things down a bit as they do first on ‘Pub Licker’ and then on ‘Crossing Swords’ that things begin to feel rather more cohesive, and find FBC explore a territory that sounds like a trip-hop reimagining of Young Marble Giants.

The album’s closer marks another departure: the thirteen-minute ‘Bendy One’ starts out a low, slow semi-ambient work with a murky beat stuttering away like a fibrillating heart, and low in the mix before slowly taking form: the beat becomes ore solid, regular, insistent, and comes to dominate a vague wash of a droning backdrop which stretches and yawns and swells behind Kenedy’s soaring choral vocal. Somewhere along the way it emerges as a new ag stomper with a thumping tribal beat and some squirming electronics that bubble away in the background of some approximation of a celebratory sunset incantation.

The end product seems to be that of a band who are ideas-rich and unafraid to experiment, while still finding their feet and sense of direction. Despite its messier moments, which often boil down to execution as much as concept, it’s a bold debut, and never uninteresting or uninspired.

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Long Division – 21st August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The second of the albums released as a fundraiser for Wakefield’s Long Division Festival presents another mix of established, up-and-coming, and new acts which encapsulates the festival’s egalitarian ethos. With its focus primarily on the local and regional, one may be forgiven for expecting a mixed bag both in terms of style and quality, but local is by no means a byword for low standards around these parts, and while this second collection – like its predecessor – is stylistically varied, the quality is remarkable.

It’s also arranged as an album of two halves, with the second being considerably more commercial, and what you’d probably call summery.

York’s Cowgirl – one of the countess projects from the city featuring the wide-ranging talents of Danny Barton (who’s also just released a new single under his Wolf Solent moniker) makes for a strong start, with its Pavementy slacker indie stylings. It’s got that up-front, full-tilt, everything-loud energy-bursting lo-fi production that delivers the buzz direct into the brain and makes you feel good instantly.

Priestgate’s ‘Now’ is a more 80s vintage style, while ‘Walking Backwards’ by Glasgow’s Life Model’s is a wonderfully poised shoegaze affair. The vocals sound lovelorn, but sign off with a strong and determined refrain of ‘I never liked you at all’ before a swell of rippling guitars surge in.

I’m waiting for a weak track, but Lemon Drink certain aren’t the one’s to serve it, with ‘Manic’ being a tight and lively slice of zesty grunge-tinged indie pop.

Mt Doubt might lack immediacy but bring mood, and HerTiltedMoons’ contribution, the brooding but lightly melodic piano-led folk-pop of ‘Orange Grove’ arrives as quite a surprise in its Coors-like commerciality, and taking a different but equally accessible tack, the quirky electronica of In The Morning Light’s ‘Milk and Honey’ is a groove-orientated tune. Bunkerpop bring a taste of the Caribbean.

It’s back to the 80s again with a dash of Ultravox and a splash of Spandau – and even a hint of B-Movie on Macroscope’s ‘Reveal’, and drawing the curtain on the collection, Little State of Georgia offer up the sparse and intimate ‘Little Tiny Ones’, a devastatingly cool work of brooding minimalist electronica that’s haunting and emotionally resonant, presenting a classic case of less being more, before swelling into a cinematic power-ballad finale.

Once again, there’s something for everyone here, and more significantly, New Addition Vol 2 showcases a wealth of talent that is entirely dependent on grass-roots venues gigs, independent festivals, and indie labels who are willing to take a punt. Because acts who break through are rarely the best ones, but the ones with backing – but getting that backing requires that initial exposure and support. Without that, it all falls apart.

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Ideologic Organ – SOMA034

Digital release date: July 3/10 / Physical release date: mid August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Ideologic Organ label owner Stephen O’Malley effuses over Ai Aso’s ‘immaculately crafted form of minimalist pop music skirts the edges of tensity with the manner and with the skill of a tight rope walker, calmly balancing repeatedly at every step, with a combination of surety and the risk of a slip, a fall, and an unknown uncoiling of events’.

Pop may not be a genre commonly associated with he label or the Sunn O))) founder, but Ideologic Organ do have a track record for venturing beyond the expected and showcasing some unusual talents, and Ai Aso is definitely one of those, as the nine tracks on The Faintest Hint demonstrate. Legendary Japanese rock band Boris accompany Aso on two of the pieces, but if you’re expecting powerchords, keep moving on.

Picked acoustic guitar alone accompanies Aso’s voice for most of the first song, ‘Itsumo’, and indeed, much of the album, and even with the multi-tracked vocal, it’s a simple, spartan, and intimate recording. The guitar and voice are in the room with you. And they touch you accordingly.

‘Scene’ is more post-rock, a slow, quivering bass chord echoes out against chiming guitar notes and Ai’s soaring ethereal voice calls to mind Cranes at their most delicately haunting, but also at times is simply a shy humming that’s endearing in its understatement and apparent reticence.

Sometimes, quietness and sparseness simply seem to equate to sadness, and the low, mumbling low-note repetitions of ‘Gone’, despite the words being unintelligible, emanate an aching sadness, while in contrast, ‘I’ll do it My Way’ carries something of a playfulness, not to mention a certain Young marble Giants lo-fi bedroom indie vibe. The straining electric guitar discordance that disrupts the singsong easiness of the song toward the end is a nice touch. She trills, swoops and croons on ‘Floating Rhythms’ in a way that sounds like she’s singing to herself – and this intimacy provides a large part of the appeal.

If there’s anything about The Faintest Hint that may suggest ‘amateurish’ to some, that’s certainly not the reaction from my ears: Aso’s minimal approach to songwriting and performance gives a rare immediacy, and it’ss unhampered by conspicuous production. It’s touching, intimate, and special.

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Come Play With Me – 17th July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Since their inception and their first release, Leeds label Come Play With Me have done a remarkable job of showcasing local talent and giving an outlet to an array of acts from the area – and to be fair, they’ve always been spoiled for choice.

As has been increasingly apparent over social media in particular lately, with attention all on schools, pubs, hairdressers, the music industry is foundering. Which is why this release is important, as a compilation record ‘to support contributing artists as they deal with the delays, cancellations and loss of income caused by the coronavirus pandemic’.

I may have mentioned it before: I’d questioned the appropriateness of reviewing under the circumstances, but with so many acts releasing new music under lockdown either out of boredom or necessity, following a certain degree of public pressure, I elected to press on, and releases like this remind me why.

Come Stay With Me is ‘a collection of 13 new songs from bands and artists across Leeds ‘Come Stay With Me’ will feature Magick Mountain, Talkboy, Dialect, Team Picture, Van Houten, Dead Naked Hippies and more with artwork from ‘Life’ drummer Stewart Baxter. Set for release in July on eco-vinyl, all profits from Come Stay With Me will be shared between the contributing artists.

What isn’t to support here? For those in need of a reason, here are plenty:

Team Picture are a band who invariably surprise: perhaps it’s because of their incorporation of so many disparate stylistic elements that they never sound like the same band. On this outing, they’ve gone for some Hi-NRG disco which is more Donna Summer than the indie seem they’ve mined previously.

Mindstate are a new name to me, and while I’m not taken by their brand of mellow, lougey jazz, it’s hard to fault the musicianship or their capacity to conjure a mellow, late-night club vibe with their chilled brass and skipping percussion. As it happens, the majority of the bands are unfamiliar, and it’s heartening to discover so many emerging artists. The majority are of an overtly ‘indie’ persuasion, and collectively, there’s something of a C86 vibe to this compilation.

But then, what goes around comes around, and the label is names after a song by on of the definitive indie bands of all time, local legends The Wedding Present.

But then Dialect’s ‘Come Up’ represents a vastly underrepresented aspect of the Leeds scene, with some direct and no-messing old-school bassy, beaty hip-hop. It hits hard and packs some meaty bass, too. That it’s very much a lone example amidst the stereotypically white indie probably suggests less an act of tokenism as how the various scenes in the city meet, and hearing this says it’s a shame and reminds us of just how far we still have to go to realise

Tall Talker’s ‘River Hands’ may be contemporary, but their noodly instrumental math-rock belongs to a rich heritage of technical post-rock that goes back to the turn of the millennium and reminds me of countless bands I saw at the Brudenell and various other venues around the city circa 2004-2008. There was a time I found this stuff a bit samey, but listening to this now, it’s hard not to get dewy-eyed. I’d rather listen to a thousand identikit instrumental post-rock acts than see venues going under and not be able to mill around at the bar between acts and discover new bands several nights a week.

Jagged post-punkers Dead Naked Hippies offer something different with the stark, broody electropop of the ‘Night Time Version’ of ‘Eyes Wide’, which sounds like Siouxsie and the Banshees remixed by Depeche Mode. Which means it’s absolutely killer.

Local supergroup and Pulled Apart by Horses offshoot Magic Mountain bring all the grungy surfy racket with ‘The Shitty Beatles’, and DENSE do a storming job of primitive lo-fi punk din with a contemporary spin on the ball-busting ‘Electric Chair’.

Dead Poets bring a slice of DIY folktronica, that boasts a dense cinematic production that belies its simplicity, and Talkboy’s demo for ‘Over Under’ is another classic indie cut with a certain vintage feel

The last track, ‘One Last Look Around’ by Household Dogs is interesting, musically and in terms of its place on the album: it’s brooding, reverby, and semi-gothic, at the same time calling to mind Post war Glamour Girls and early Pulp. It’s no understatement to say that this is an absolute revelation, and I’m buzzing for more Household Dogs. It makes me yearn even more for the live scene and situations where I can stumble upon new acts with ease. But in the meantime, stay alert, keep on the hunt for new artists and support music any and every way you can.

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19th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m always pleased to hear from Nathan Argonaut, because it invariably means he’s made some new music. He and Lorna have certainly been keeping busy writing and recording under their Videostore moniker while under lockdown, and sire enough, his most recent missive came with a link to the ‘brand spanking new single from the Videostore, written and recorded in the doldrums this week!’

It does very much seem to have been one of those low weeks for many, myself included, so a new sliver of their choppy lo-fi indie makes for a welcome arrival. Better still, it’s a corker: the drum machine is half-buried in the verses beneath a thumping fat bass and sustained synth note. ‘Over thinking, over drinking solution friendly messy ending’ the intonate in monotone, encapsulating the ennui with wonderful simplicity and precision.

Prefacing the lyrics, the BandCamp release, features the line ‘We must be out of our brilliant minds…’ On noticing, I then spent the next half hour – and more – watching first the video for Furniture’s 1986 single ‘Brilliant Mind’ followed by a slew of contemporaneous content. Such is my mind-blank distractibility. I forgot to finish the review and instead went on an epic mental diversion.

And then the guitar detonates all over everything, an overloading blast of distortion, and I’m reminded of the obliterative wall-of-noise bursts on The Jesus and Mary Chain song ‘Taste The Floor’.

‘Your Mind’ is an explosive release of tension that fizzes and flames all over, landing somewhere between The JAMC and more recent peers Scumbag Philosopher. It’s also quite possibly their best work to date.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Daily, I read about how the current situation is affecting bands, and, indeed, every aspect of the music industry. That said, it’s always the grass roots and lower echelons who are hardest hit, as is the case in any kind of crisis. Major-league artists will always be ok as gong as there are radio stations to play their stuff and produce a steady flow of royalties, and their millions of fans continue to stream their songs endlessly online. Beyoncé, Bono, and Ed Sheeran aren’t going to starve under lockdown.

But bands who rely on gigs in pubs alongside other bands who rely on gigs in pubs to find a fanbase and maybe flog enough merchandise to cover their fuel between said gigs have nothing to fall back on.

Sleep Kicks’ story is by no means unique, but they way they tell it as they present their new single really brings it home:

The whole live music scene shut down less than two weeks after our debut single came out. Instead of doing gigs and rehearsals, we just kept going, working on our own with a handful of songs we had recorded. Mixing, videos, artwork – the lot. We suddenly realised that one of the songs happened to describe this weird situation, and the feeling we somehow knew we would have once this whole thing was over. In short, the soundtrack to coming out of urban lockdown. It turned out an epic ode to the city, and at least it helped ourselves keeping the spirits up during the bleak times!

With ‘Recovery’, the Norwegian quartet paint scenes of an empty world springing back to life, and the difficulties of the prospect of readjustment.

A rolling rhythm and chiming guitar pave the way for a strolling bass motif and they coalesce into a spacious, reflective soundscape that sits between A-Ha, Editors, and mid-80s U2 and Simple Minds. Things kick up a notch and even nod toward anthemic around the mid-point of this six-and-a-half minute epic, before blossoming fully for a mesmerising final minute, where it soars on every level as they cast their eye to a brighter future: not the chalk-drawn rainbow on the pavement featured on the cover art, but a life of fulfilment, a re-emergence from the stasis of the now to actually living, rather than merely existing.

For a ‘little’ band, they have a big, ambitious sound that’s also got big audience potential. Here’s hoping they fulfil it.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Here in Britain, sophomore is such a music journo word: because of the structure of our education system, it simply doesn’t occur in any other context. The fact the same is true in Australia perhaps makes it an odd choice of name for an Australian band, but one suspects there’s a degree of knowingness around this, paired with the fact that the band is essentially a second project for noisy alt-rock duo Mannequin Death Squad, which sees Elly and Dan joined by Vanessa and Shelly in a quest to pursue a slightly more indie / pop direction.

‘Social Distancing’ is, as you might expect, another in a blizzard of recordings inspired by current events – or, indeed, non-events, as the days melt into one another – but does stand out as being particularly good. Maybe I’m biased; maybe it just resonates: it’s not the virus that’s putting me in a psychological spin, but news and social media, through which the landscape changes by the hour.

‘I can’t breathe / with all this information thrown at me’, are the opening lines, and it pretty much encapsulates the experience a connected digital society in which everyone has an opinion and data overload is more of a syndrome than something theoretical. I feel that communication with even me closest friends is becoming increasingly difficult as we all become zombified by bewilderment.

From a quiet, picked guitar intro, in classic grunge style, it breaks into a big, guitar-driven chorus, but the guitars chime rather than drive, and the vocal harmonies are so sweet as they advise ‘don’t listen to the radio /don’t listen to those TV shows’. I’ve been feeling the pain of government disinformation a lot lately, and much as keeping informed is useful, I’m beginning to question the validity of the exercise. But the real crux comes near the midpoint on the refrain ‘and the lonely get lonelier’ and it lands hard. Because it’s true. We all feel isolated to varying degrees, because we are, literally, in isolation – but some are more isolated than others.

Stuck indoors with your family may be tense and torturous, and only having text or Skype or similar may be a woefully weak substitute for human contact, but what about those without any of these things? The sentiment is touching, and it’s also a belting tune, that ultimately lands like The Pixies doing anthemic.

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7th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Of all of the releases that have been created under the great lockdown of 2020, this may be one of the most inspired, innovative, and also poignant I’ve encountered yet.

Although the project has been, in part, something to keep York-based lo-fi instrumentalist owl (Oli Knight) busy and connected while there’s no live music, no band rehearsals, or studio time to be had, its foundations are far deeper: the liner notes explain that the album is ‘dedicated to the memory of Alex Winspear who we sadly lost 13/09/2011’, and continue with further detail:

‘Alex had the idea to record pieces of music with as many people as he could in as many different styles, since then I have always wanted to do a similar thing. He inspired me as a musician and a human and I’m happy that I managed to get so many people to be a part of this project, I think he would have loved this’.

As such, all proceeds from Family & Friends are being donated to the Samaritans, and it’s available on a pay-as-you-feel basis.

The album’s forty tracks feature no fewer than thirty-seven contributors, including parents – because if nothing else, being confined to the home has made people resourceful, and to use what’s immediately to hand. As it happens, mum brings hefty percussion and a driving psych/desert rock vibe that’s quite a standout, so it’s a win there.

No doubt partly on account of geography, there are a number of contributors on this album I either know personally, or have seen performing locally, and in some odd way, they provide not only a warm glow of pride, but also a certain sense of comfort.

The first piece features Alex Winspear with owl., and was constructed using a sample from a salvaged recording. Its placing feels obviously significant under the circumstances, and in many ways counts for more than the gentle, flickering jazz-tinged acoustic post-rock of the actual composition, which, it has to be said, is extremely pleasant.

All of owl’s parts were recorded to iPhone in a single take, and any errors remain preserved. This is integral to the lo-fi authenticity of his work, and give it not only an immediacy, but also a humanity that’s disarming, endearing. None of the pieces have titles, beyond the names of the performers, and their range is remarkable, from rolling piano that broods and emotes, to flighty folk, and warpy glitchtronica.

Members of Bull independently provide sounds on two of the tracks, while Charlie Swainston is very much a notable name, but it’s Lou Terry’s scratchy country that stands out, along with

Ste Iredale and Jean Penne’s spoken word segments, which bring a different dimension – primarily words – to proceedings. Elsewhere, Matthew Dick’s gloopy, spacious, looped bass work is quite hypnotic, and paired with a full percussion track, there’s an expansive rock vibe being mined to full effect.

Martyn Fillingham from …And the Hangnails and Wolf Solent, who brings noise and drone are obvious namechecks, and their contributions are also worthy of mention musically.

Family & Friends is ambitious, and succeeds on so many levels, not least on the artistic level that is contains some nice tunes, and with such diversity, there’s something for everyone. Buy it: it’s for a good cause.

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