SINGLE REVIEW: Alone by The McKenzie FIX

PACKSHOT - 'Alone' by The McKenzie FIX

The McKenzie FIX is the artistic moniker of Scottish musician, singer and songwriter Ewan McKenzie. He was formerly the frontman of Edinburgh-based group Emporium and their album Silver Brainwaves received support from the Scottish Arts Council. His songs have also been supported by Radio One, DJ Steve Wright on BBC World Service and received Album Of The Month on popular German show, Popscene. He’s also garnered a 5-star review in UK’s Guitarist magazine as well as NME coverage.

This song, Alone, is taking from the forthcoming debut album, to be released later this year. The song is an alternative pop piano ballad that acts as a fine showcase for McKenzie’s craftsmanship as a songwriter. Opening with a poignant piano motif, Ewan enters with a plaintive and distinctive vocal style over inventive and unexpected chord changes.

After a haunting verse accompanied by piano and organ, it develops into a more rhythmic section. There’s a distinctive classical and even operatic influence in the complex structure of the song as well as the sophisticated use of synth strings.

Lyrically, it’s a rather poignant tale of a young lady who feels very much an outsider in social situations as captured by the opening lines: “Alone in a room full of strangers, by herself in a roomful of friends, it seems that they whisper in corners and she wonders will this never end?

The song was co-written with lyricist Kay Russell, whose sensitive portrayal of loneliness and social awkwardness is perfectly married to the music, resulting in a very fine artistic collaboration.

Overall, this is an extremely well written and performed alternative pop song with classical overtones. Ewan McKenzie’s music is clearly more about art than simply creating a commercial product and he clearly has a gift for composing beautiful melodies. Kay Russell’s lyrics about isolation seem particularly apposite during this era of social distancing and hopefully many will be moved by this touching song.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

The McKenzie FIX · The McKenzie FIX – Alone

E.P. REVIEW: The Troubled Boy At The Bonfire Disco

Troubled Boy at the Bonfire Disco - Cover

Freddie Bourne is an American singer songwriter hailing from Jackson, New Jersey. He has been very highly placed in various talent competitions including winning Liberty Idol in 2010. He is known for fronting the bands Exit 22 and Sahara from Jackson and Manalapan, New Jersey, respectively.

His solo career began in 2012, and he has opened for acts such as Tyler Hilton from the television show One Tree Hill, Jersey Acoustic Music Award Winner Chelsea Carlson, and played for Gavin and Joey DeGraw’s bar The National Underground. He released his debut album, Only Human, in 2013.

This EP, The Troubled Boy At The Bonfire Disco, consists of four tracks and constitutes his fifth project. The style is essentially contemporary pop, a blend of Lewis Capaldi-style acoustic/piano singer-songwriting with some EDM aspects incorporated to give the sound a modern edge. This is perfectly encapsulated by the excellent opening track, I Hope You Don’t Forgive Me. Based around picked acoustic guitar, Bourne delivers a haunting vocal melody in his distinctive, emotive singing style.

You can hear the influences of songwriters like James Blake, Daniel Powter and Richard Marx in the melancholy, intimate nature of the music, at least at first. After the chorus hook, it breaks into an unexpected EDM section, before returning to the second verse augmented by warm strings. With its radio friendly sound and subtle but effective title hook, this has huge hit potential and also as soundtrack music.

Second track Jeni is another well crafted song, this one more straightforward stylistically, essentially anthemic pop/rock that brought to mind Paolo Nutini and Coldplay, circa A Rush Of Blood To The Head. Bourne gives another compelling vocal performance in his plaintive upper register, with subtle touches of electronica emerging in the second verse. The concise guitar solo working in tandem with synths was a nice touch and once again, the vocal melody sticks quickly in the memory. This would also make a fine single release.

The EDM production style returns to the fore on the intro to Pale Blue Sky, before breaking down to a sparse verse. This allows the vocals to dominate, backed by a minimal beat and haunting piano arpeggios. The simple hook of “I’ll fly with you…” proves addictive and the way the arrangement builds to an EDM finale is cleverly done. Again, the commercial potential is big, owing to the wide ranging appeal of the pop/dance crossover sound.

Final track Spacedust has an equally languid tempo, Bourne delivering a Chris Martin-esque falsetto vocal that sounds natural and uncontrived. Once again, it is something of a slow burning epic, gradually building in texture and rhythm towards an understated but highly intricate blend of picked acoustic guitar patterns and interweaving synths. This track will again have a large across the aboard appeal, particularly those who love Coldplay’s more recent output.

Overall, this is a consistently strong collection of songs by an upcoming artist gifted with both a unique style of his own and a contemporary, commercial sound. In an era where male singer-songwriters are dominating the charts worldwide, Freddie Bourne has everything it takes to make it to the top and this EP could potentially be a major step towards that goal.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Ben Sheers

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Ben Sheers is an up and coming Scottish singer songwriter, hailing from Aberdeen. In the past he has worked with other musicians on various projects and, more recently, has started releasing his solo material online and his latest release, The Last Christmas Drink (Is On Me), can be heard below:

 

I got to ask him a few questions about his music.

With the huge success of Lewis Capaldi and the increasingly popular songwriter Gerry Cinnamon it’s a good time to be a Scottish singer/songwriter. Why do you think solo singer/songwriters are so popular at the moment? It’s rare to see a band break through to the upper echelons of the charts these days.

“It’s funny you should mention those two, heard a little bit of both, their music is opposite ends of the spectrum isn’t it, one sings from a Mills and Boon novel, the other about big hard crazy jackie from the gorbals being a belter, one sounds like a comedian the other thinks he’s a comedian.

I can see the attraction on both sides but I can honestly say I don’t listen to either. So, no it makes no difference where you’re from, I don’t think its a good time to be a solo Scottish artist, they’ve always been about. It’s just that bands at the moment…I don’t know…nothing out grabbing you by the balls just now really, everything’s safe….”. 

Who are your musical heroes and inspirations? Is there one artist or group who’ve been the biggest influence on your music? 

“I look to albums, certain songs being more of an influence than actual artists, cos most have lost the plot at some point or other, haven’t they? I’ll mention Bob Marley as an example, I love his songwriting, it’s universal, a certain way he lived free….but jeez he had about 11 wives and 35 kids didn’t he? [laughs]

Dylan, Young, Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, Bruce Springsteen, Ian Brown, Richard Ashcroft, The Smiths, so much more….loads of great albums of theirs have been an influence, but that guy who free climbs Alex Honneld…he’s an inspiration ain’t he? Actually I’m going up snowy Ben Nevis next week, a walk in the park compared to what Alex does….”.

How do you feel about the modern music industry, do you think streaming music helps an artist reach people or is it unfair for the artist to allow people to listen and enjoy their music without paying for a single or album as it used to be?

“They wont take risks with artists will they? Not now. Maybe they got to much ear wax or something, I don’t know, the industry, the suits etc, that’s the way it is now… streaming, downloading music, go on YouTube there it is, but I like vinyl heads and I can understand that, something about a nice new album, can’t beat that warm sound on a good player.

If an artist puts his or her music on YouTube or other online services they know the score, the way I see it is if more people hear and connect then that’s fine… even if I don’t make a cent, I’m sharing something sacred. If they get it then great, just the way it is today. Now how do I get the cash to make that no. 1 album that’s in my head?! [laughs]”.

Your latest release is a Christmas song in the classic tradition. What’s the song about in a nutshell and do you have a favourite Christmas song of all time? 
“It’s all about that Christmas spirit, you can still feel it at that time of year, can you? I hope so…I can, despite all the commercialism and shite it’s not gone, it’s deeper than that….awhh feck let’s just get drunk tonight, throw some snowballs, fall on our asses in the snow outside the bar,tomorrow’s Xmas day, [laughs] and we’ll meet cousins and family we never knew we had, consuming more booze and eating too much food while watching great telly again and again…. ! But it can be a feckin horrid time to be lonely as well.

I didn’t set out to write a Christmas song,I’d been playing with the riff for a while started finger picking the strings in harmony,the words just came out so I went with it,probably wrote in in the summer [laughs], I’ve got another 2 versions of the song I want to try to record, one a more kinda spoken narrative version with just strings… yeah it ain’t going away that easy!

Favourite Xmas song……The Pogues ft Kirsty McColl, Bowie and Bing, White Xmas, the real traditional ones ye know, can do without Slade and Band Aid ffs, give us a break this year please!!”

5. What is in the pipeline for next year, musically, for Ben Sheers? And where can people find out more about you and your work?
“As I mentioned I’m planning on spending some of my hard earned in the studio recording The Last Xmas Drink again, and about another 5-7 songs that I’ll be trying time permitting, gotta work ye know pay the bills etc…yeah, so more studio time, more mountains, more booze, more of the same really, I’ll be looking into more of this promotion thing as well for some of my other completed stuff.

 

You can find more Ben Sheers material HERE