Graham Reid | | 5 min read
With so many CDs commanding and demanding attention Elsewhere will run this occasional column by the informed and opinionated Yasmin Brown.
You can read her previous columns here and Yasmin's profile appears at the end of these brief but pointed reviews . . .
All of these EPs are available on Spotify
Sam Bartells: Let’s Go
It turns out that nothing pleases Kiwi artists more than proving you don’t have to be from Nashville to make great country music. Sam Bartells has done just that with this EP made up of five easy listening tracks that could bring sunshine to even the coldest of days. The title track has that perfect road trip, falling in love in a small country town kind of vibe delivered by Bartells’ charming tones. And as if that wasn’t quite country enough for you, Bartells steps it up a notch with Sign as he unashamedly brings in the banjos, embraces a nostalgic sounding electric guitar and ices the cake with a wistful use of the fiddle.
The positivity continues into Alone No More as you feel Bartells is singing directly to you as he tells a story of the kind of love that would follow you anywhere before darkening the mood with more bluesy tones in Blessed & Broken. It’s here where Bartells’ voice is strongest, and it’s certainly the most interesting of the five tracks but that doesn’t by any means mean that any of the other tracks lack depth.
It’s a lovely EP, filled with warmth, encompassed by its closing track, Morning Light - a song that feels like waking up on the first day of summer. And as we move steadily out of spring towards the brightest months, you could do worse than to let this be your soundtrack.
Sam V x bKIDD: Cruisin’
If you’ve listened to any of Sam V’s previous work (see here), you may well be surprised by his most recent venture with bKIDD on Cruisin’. The collaboration with the rapper didn’t have to be a negative addition to his well-defined sound, but unfortunately, while there are enjoyable moments throughout the EP, there are far too many elements that are hard to overlook.
Let’s start with the positives, though: the RnB vocals that drive Just For Summer are lovely, and both the EP’s title track and the remix of SHAWTY are catchy and enjoyable in a nostalgic, Justin Timberlake sort of way. There’s a sincerity in these tracks that you won’t find elsewhere on the record, and it’s the farcical nature of some of these earlier pieces that makes it difficult to enjoy the stronger moments.
Now it would be all too easy to say that you can’t expect a song called Fart King to be anything but kind of gross but even with such a blatantly absurd name, the satire (if that’s what it is), isn’t always clear. And let’s be honest, does the word ‘pubes’ need to be used in any song? Ever?
Sadly it doesn’t end there, either. The sweet vocals of Just For Summer are ruined by the use of unnecessary misogynistic slurs. Had the whole record leant into these words and doused them in jest, they may just about have been excusable, however given the sincerity that envelopes other tracks, it’s hard to know what is and isn’t a joke.
Offense aside, the EP simply doesn’t fit together as one coherent piece. Where sometimes a cacophony of genres can work well, in this case it’s confusing, jarring and difficult to enjoy.
If, in 2020, you can convince yourself that the derogatory use of words such as ‘bitch’ and ‘slut’ are acceptable, then perhaps Cruisin’ is for you, but for the rest of you, you might want to leave this one at the door.
KOPS: Artwork II/II
Scandinavian music is consistently some of the strongest in the world and here to provide further proof of that is Denmark native, KOPS. From the outset this EP is funky as hell, somewhat channeling his inner Troye Sivan in the vocal tones and synths during I Do the Best I Can, but ultimately creating his own signature sound that’s both catchy and memorable. This sound is carried throughout most of the EP, particularly during the Simon Jul collaboration, Halfway to Halfway (complete with epic guitar solo) and penultimate track Do Better.
Perhaps the strongest moments, however, are when the music is given a chance to grow steadily from the ground up. Little Lady, for example, starts slow, soft and sincere, driven by piano with a gentle and caring nature before building up to a massive, anthemic chorus filled with love and utilising stunning vocal falsetto. It’s a tactic that’s used in the ethereal Wildfire, too, a beautifully emotive song aptly riddled with panic.
Despite its many flavours, KOPS has expertly crafted a comprehensive and complete jigsaw puzzle that’s enjoyable from start to finish. Whatever your musical preference, Artwork II/II is well worth the listen.
As genres consistently overlap and music increasingly loses any semblance of boundaries, it can all start to blend into one. That’s why then, when someone like New Zealand’s very own deryk comes along - someone whose talent shines like a diamond in a pile of rocks - you’d be hard pressed not to find yourself in speechless awe.
Every track on WOMb tells a story. From Call You Out, which provides a platform for you to find your inner strength, all the way through to goodtimes, which encourages you to move on, let go of regret and simply appreciate what you had, there’s something affirmative to be found in every second.
There’s no single element that can be singled out here as being the most impressive - it’s the way each individual part of these songs work together that make this music so special. Deryk’s vocals, the simple yet deeply emotive lyrics, and the cool and easy synth beats that drive music of the EP are all vital cogs. Lyrically, however, something has to be said for a song that incites a million images using such simple words and MEN does just that. As deryk explains that ‘this is your space without any men’, any woman can picture the anxiety of walking home at night, or having to hide in the bathroom on a night out. This simple yet effective approach encompasses the EP, cementing deryk as one to watch.
Don’t let this one pass you by.
Yasmin Brown is a dedicated music lover and avid critic, who completed her PGDip in Communication Studies at Auckland University of Technology. She’s at her peak when buried in the middle of a mosh pit, and now continues to pursue her love of live music journalism in Cambridge, UK, often finding herself popping to London to check out her favourite bands, as well as discovering a mass of new talent.