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Live, Love, Laugh AND Listen!


Chastity Belt, Gudrun Gut, Jamie Yost, Nailah Hunter, Shabaka, Shayfer James, You Tell Me

The Front Runners

Live, Love, Laugh : Chastity Belt

Chastity Belt have left behind brash noise pop, but ultimately they head towards mild frustration at missed opportunity.

One of the prompts to listen to this came from reading reviews that heralded a change of direction towards a more accessible poppier sound. It’s OK, but for the most part nothing more. 

This is an album full of songs that mark a pause for breath. Of all the emotions you seek from music, impatience should not be top of the list.

It’s still an indie album. They haven’t sold their collective souls or anything like that. Each of the band takes a turn on lead vocals and they all acquit themselves well. They’re singing to the same template though, so personality takes a hit.

I think it’s the template that’s at fault. It drags the songs down through its slow pace, adding a weight to the songs that they struggle with, leaving them like bread that has failed to rise fully. I wanted to hear John Peel’s voice saying “Oops, wrong speed” although the ideal adjustment would require a standard playing speed of around 40-42 rpm to bring them down from their more manic norm.

It’s a shame because there are enough glimpses of promise to give an idea of what might have been. ‘The slightly faster pace ‘Chemtrails’ is a tantalising peep at what could have been, a sound that links their past and desired future. ‘I-90 Bridge’ is much better and may be the key that helps to unlock the album if you are willing to give it a second chance and start again.

‘Live, Laugh, Love’? I’m afraid it didn’t spark any of those feelings in me.

Taster Track : I-90 Bridge

The Chasing Pack

GUT Soundtrack : Gudrun Gut

This is a collection of deep diving electronica, full of guttural vocals, motorik rhythms and ambient industrial sounds. Collectively they form the soundtrack to a German TV show. 

If that doesn’t sound dauntingly niche, I don’t know what does. Add in the fact that the host of GUT has been Germany’s equivalent to John Peel, for 40 years the guardian of new German musik.

It’s true that there’s little here that’s soft and gentle, not much that you’d expect to have heard on TOTP. In parts it’s industrial, elsewhere ambient and clanging, droning and clattering its way throughout everything else. Taken as a whole it’s a curiously engaging collection. John Peel turns out to be a good reference point and it’sfun trying to imagine what was happening on screen to make these tracks a suitable soundtrack.

This is a hardcore dive into electronica, an excellent primer if you want to rediscover where German music has arrived at today. It helps that it runs as a continuous mix, the beats, noises and rhythms of say, ‘MMM GUT’ overlapping with the beginning of ‘CR78’. In many ways that makes it an easier listen. You’re not starting again every couple of minutes or so. 

‘Garten - Edit’ is probably the most conventional song here. ‘Nostalgie (Akkordion)’ may be the only instance of an accordion backed by electronic music you ever hear. Not even the Penguin Cafe Orchestra went that far! There’s a brooding menace to ‘Lover-Edit’ that feels very German and ‘Kaltes Klares Wasser’ is foot tappingly nightmarish. Elsewhere, just as you may begin to wonder if you should still be listening to this, something new leaps out at you to keep you on board.

It’s not melodic but it is full of intriguing rhythms and sounds. It must be a weird TV show!

Taster Track : Garten - Edit

This Is Home : Jamie Yost

Jamie Yost’s EP is full of the sensitive singer songwriting beloved of bedsit tenants with a soul and a feel for poetry.

This was sent to me by a friend who saw him live. (Thanks Martin!) We’ve grown up together musically and, whilst our tastes diverge we’ve built a lot of common ground over the years. Sending the CD  was an unprompted act of spontaneous generosity that I wanted to repay by loving the music. The fact is though that I didn’t, but trying to understand why over an early morning cup of coffee clarified a few things for me.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s absolutely nothing amiss with these songs. Jamie Yost is a more than proficient songwriter. There’s a lot of care and attention invested in the arrangements and the production. ‘Nightmares’ is a pounding ballad, crafted with skill and showcasing his skill in building an emotional song without letting the emotion overwhelm it. ‘This Is Home’ reminds me of the big power ballads of the 1980s, Mike and the Mechanics for the 21st Century. Coming more up to date, a parallel might be Ed Harcourt shorn of his raging histrionics.

My issue with this, and it is MY issue, is that there’s a lot of it about. Look at Spotify and you’ll find more than a few curated playlists filled with artists performing similarly sounding songs. It is what it is, and you need something to stand out.

That something is the live performance. Listening to this at 06:00, alone with just an early cup of coffee for company, means it's harder to engage. Listen to it in company, after a weekend of anticipation, with the chance of eye to eye contact and when the artist’s personality is there before you well. It’s a different context entirely.

It’s a dilemma when you’re building a reputation, that balance between live performance and recorded material. Jamie Yost deserves support and encouragement. Let’s give it to him.

Taster Track : This Is Home

Lovegaze : Nailah Hunter

This album belies Hunter’s background. It’s a dark and densely packed collection of serious songs.

Nailah’s background is as a harpist accompanying meditation sessions and sound baths. If you think that this announces her as a purveyor of chilled ambience, think again. 

Two lines from ‘Into The sun’ will set you right. They’re:

“I dream of beheadings and

Goose feather bedding on fire”

I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable in my sound bath, or absorbed in my meditation if I knew that was what the harpist in the corner was thinking!

This is not background music, but a set of crafted songs to explore over several sessions. They compel you to listen. Strip the lyrics from ‘Bleed’ and you could have something to accompany a particularly savage burst of therapy.

Nailah is the daughter of a Belizean pastor. Remnants of that upbringing remain with her. In her music though, there’s no trace of joyful Evangelicism, only the sickening dread of the Good Friday passion. She draws from the Billie Holiday and Lady Blackbird end of the musical spectrum.

‘Through The Din’ possesses a foreboding and inexorable beat. It’s serious music for serious listeners with expensive headphones and time to listen. They’ll find layered textures with soulful overtones before diving into a densely packed and intricately constructed set of songs. It’s not uplifting but it could leave you feeling thoughtful and ready to confront demons you’ve left to lie still for too long.

I like her use of the harp. It’s her stock in trade and it would be easy to give it a high profile in the songs. It’s not allowed to dominate centre stage but it plays a key role in creating the rich and complex tone.

If it were more prominent it could provide a welcome lightening of the tone, making up for a lack of memorable melody and a reliance on tone and atmosphere. Her voice, in a lower register, is the voice crawling into your dreams from the Heavens. You’d better listen to it.

As with any gift, it’s the thought that counts. There’s a lot of thought invested in this album. At the very least it deserves a thoughtful and considered response.

Taster Track : Through The Din

Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace : Shabaka

This is flute jazz for people who like dense, sometimes impenetrable, poetry.

If you’ve been with Pop In The Real World since its beginning in 2020, you may recall my attempts to grow to like jazz. I knew there had to be something there, but I didn’t know how to find it. By and large I think I succeeded eventually, but this album takes me back to those days when I concentrated but floundered, nodded my head in communion with the musicians while my eyes belied no understanding of what I was hearing.

I’ve listened to Shabake before, in the days when he favoured the saxophone, and found things to like. Now he plays different kinds of flute, and asks the musicians around him to play everything as if it was an intro or an outro. There are some great intros and outros out there, but I’m not sure any of them have made it onto this album. That leaves a big hole in the middle as if Goldilocks had ambled out of the house and run back later without having a sit down, an afternoon nap or a free porridge tasting session.

One of the issues I have with Shabaka’s undeniably pretty sounding album is that it feels as if it is created by and for an exotic outsider community. They’re a closed circle playing for themselves and not making it easy for me to participate in the experience. You can watch but not touch. That’s fine from their perspective, but it takes away something in music that is important to me.

It’s not as if the pieces can be rescued by the lyrics either. Too often they’re murmurs that feel as if they’re still half formed or improvised and partly stuck in the singer’s head. It does make for a relaxed vibe, but one that is too easy to let slip by without giving it any attention.

Like much jazz it feels improvised, and there is a strong sense of the musicians playing together as one. Pieces evolve without the need for obvious cues. That’s a skill to be applauded in itself, even if pointers would be useful for the less informed listener.

While listening to this, there was nothing going on around me that acted as a distraction or barrier to the music. Yet it left me cold, when it should have transported me into another realm, for 45 minutes at least.

To be fair that’s down to me as much as Shabaka, but the feeling of having failed as a listener is not what I want to take from music. I’ve felt this way before when listening to Floating Points. Their 2021 album ‘Promises’ swept the board with critics and reviewers for Album of the Year. I couldn’t fathom it. It’s no coincidence that they are one of the collaborators here.

I can perceive its beauty. I can acknowledge its grace. Buit, on this occasion, it leaves me cold.

Here’s Pitchfork's Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowldege its Grace review. They awarded it 8/10, a high score by their standards.

Taster Track : I’ll Do Whatever You Want

Shipwreck : Shayfer James

Showtime! Shayfer James provides high drama and big performances on this album.

Don’t come to this expecting your common or garden singer songwriter. This is a highly stylised set from a master storyteller. Shayfer is no shrinking violet afraid to take centre stage. He fills it like a Brian Blessed of song.

Its personality that carries this through. These are big songs made from surprisingly sparse resources, often just a crashing piano and a sharp rat a tat beat. Even at its most extravagant on ‘First Date’ it's built from just a piano, glockenspiel (or maybe xylophone), drums, bass and vocals. It’s a kind of touring version of a lavish opera, its effect achieved just a touch as much by suggestion as what you hear in front of you. ‘Learning To Be Lost’ reins it in, but everything’s relative

It feels very much like a one man show where every character is played by the same actor. He has different tones to suit every occasion, from the fairground barker of  ‘Welcome Back, Misery’ to the near falsetto of ‘Must We’. You may feel it needs a different mindset to enjoy this, but it's worth it when you listen to a song such as ‘Built to Burn’

You can catch echoes of past performers on the way. There’s some Nilsson in there from around the point he began telling the story of the Point. And Anthony Johnson / Anonhi is brought to mind in the scared, haunting tones of ‘Must We’.

‘Ferryman’ is the track that captures Shayfer best in all his glory. It has style and, above all, it’s fun. That’s a good summary of the album too.

Taster Track : Ferryman

You Tell Me : You Tell Me

You Tell Me’s take on pop folk is not a conventional one, but it is one with much to appeal if you listen attentively.

You Tell Me are Peter Brewis from Field Music and Sarah Hayes from Admiral Fallow. They met and bonded at a Kate Bush celebration show. He brings his slightly off kilter pop nous; she brings the folk tones and vocals.

Folk always strikes me as a musical dialect, marking out new territory and that’s the case here. If you want the sweetness of a pop chorus, listen elsewhere. If you're open to new ideas and approaches, tune in.

There’s something of the musical rather than the album at play here too. A song like ‘Foreign Parts’ is acted out as much as sung, directed as much as played. You could say that this is pop that needs a conductor.

‘Get Out of the Room’ is typical - a slightly discordant form of the genre, but something that is quirkily, recognisably pop. First impressions may be of something a little ungainly and clunky, but that feeling soon disappears. Think of it as a large animal learning to take its first steps. It’s not long before crashing clumsiness becomes something of power and strength.

Listen carefully though and you'll hear things to delight. A flourish of strings here and an unexpected inflection there catch the ear like the unexpected sound of wind ruffling crops in the field or a snatch of birdsong. The parts add up to something with more than its fair share of loveliness.

You Tell Me have created something here that you won’t find elsewhere. For that alone, it’s worth a listen.

Taster Track : Clarion Call


As ever this week's Taster Track playlists can be accessed at or via the Spotify link on the Home Page.


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