This week’s edition of ‘New Releases Round-Up’ features the talents of two singer-songwriters; ‘Ant Macandrew’ and ‘Leanne-Paige’.
First up is ‘Singing Hearts’, the upcoming sophomore effort by local boy, ‘Ant Macandrew’. Kicking things off with ‘Home’, Macandrew introduces us to his world of optimistic melodies and sunny production methods. His ode to those home comforts is an excellent slice of that feel-good pie and features a chorus that would be a great backdrop to any summer ‘road movie’. Some harmonious vocals and a breezy drum beat complement Macandrew’s passionate vocals really well, making the song a great opener to ‘Singing Hearts’. Following on from that is ‘All These Years’, which carries on where ‘Home’ left off, and expands Macandrew’s sonic palette with the inclusion of a mandolin and some rhythmic hand-claps. The mandolin provides some nice mid-frequencies in the mix and allows the bass guitar to groove along underneath without being obtrusive. I’m not normally a fan of ‘woah-oh’ backing vocals but they work really well in ‘All These Years’, a song sure to please fans of ‘The Lumineers’ or others of the modern-folk-revival clan. Macandrew names ‘Coldplay’ and ‘The Script’ as some of his influences and these can be heard on the title track, another feel-good number with some confessional lyrics in the verse. A subtle use of a string section and a bit of piano dabbling in the background brings out the sensitive nature of the song, with both being joined by a whole host of overlapping vocal harmonies. I like to picture a group of ‘Ant Macandrew clones’ in the studio singing all of the different parts, of which there are many. This is a song for headphone enthusiasts and the stereo spectrum is definitely not wasted. The piano is back for the fourth song ‘I Believe’, another upbeat number with a driving drumbeat and a nice use of ethereal synth-lines in the background. Who says singer-songwriters have to be laid bare with just their acoustic guitars these days?
‘Memories With You’ might be my least favourite song from the EP, as the lyrics bemoan the modern use of social media and how much we rely on it. It’s by-no-means an awful song, and has its catchy moments, but some of the lyrics are a little laughable. ‘Let’s go back to the days we love, when phones were just made to call you up’ springs to mind – which surprised me, given how well-written some of the other lyrics on the EP are. Macandrew closes the EP with ‘Together As One’, which unfortunately suffers from a few lyrical clichés again but boasts some notable vocal performances from the man, as well as some clear production. The bass guitar is gutsier than previous songs and Macandrew lets his falsetto rip for the backing vocals – Bono would be impressed! Overall, ‘Singing Hearts’ is a good example of what Mr. Macandrew can do and is a must-buy for fans of bright and breezy pop-rock. In an age where being all ‘deep and contemplative’ is the norm (and frankly a little stale), Ant Macandrew manages to subvert this with some feel-good, sing-along songs, without sacrificing any integrity in the process. Its due out 26th May and will be available to buy from all good online retailers. In the meantime, why not check out his previous work, which includes début EP ‘Hidden Treasures’. He also has a YouTube channel, in which he covers everyone from Bryan Adams to Tenacious D!
Second on this week’s edition of ‘New Releases Round-Up’ is ‘Leanne-Paige’ and her début EP ‘Can You See’. Right off the bat, it’s clear that Leanne possesses a wonderful voice that is both strong and clear. Featuring the glitchy electronics and processed drumbeats that are a staple of modern pop songs, ‘Can You See Me’ is sure to be a future dance-floor filler at many nightclubs. My mouth suddenly tastes of vodka and coke…weird? A build-up of hazy synths and groove-laden basslines provide a nice backdrop for Leanne’s voice, before a massive drop is utilised towards the end of the song. ‘Two Hearts’ is up next and flows on nicely from the opener. A syncopated beat and some bouncy basslines give the song a true warmth, before breaking out into a dynamic chorus, which has the same optimistic feel that many Jess Glynne numbers possess. Leanne’s voice sits better in the mix than in the title-track, where she felt a bit separate from the production. ‘Where I Belong’ breaks the mould made thus far, with some delicately picked acoustic guitar being the focal point. Leanne’s voice is given a bit more room to breathe and the sweet, sunshine harmonies show her folkier side to song writing. As something of a ‘guitar purist’, ‘Where I Belong’ appeals to me a lot more than the previous numbers and is a great example of Leanne’s versatility. Her voice is allowed to soar in this song and will be a great mid-set inclusion at her gigs.
‘Tear’ is the fourth song of the set and order is resumed. A sweeping pad sets the tone for the song and Leanne’s passionate vocals enter the sonic picture. A dirty bassline makes itself heard whilst the stuttering drumbeat rolls along nicely in the background. This is certainly a EDM-infused pop cut that will have heads bopping and bodies swaying. The lyrics are confessional and the chorus hook is catchy enough to stick in my head for the next five minutes. I like the use of overlapped vocals and a bit of distortion applied the backing vocal gives ‘Tear’ a grittier edge. The EP signs off with ‘Face the Truth’, in which Leanne trades the modern production style in favour of a vintage aesthetic. A sultry swing to the song is reminiscent of Lana Del Rey, but Leanne manages to insert enough of her personality into the song to prevent it from becoming a pastiche. The reverb is nicely applied to both the guitar riff and her voice, meaning the listener can be transported back to the 1950s, minus the vinyl crackle. I picture this song being used on a neo-noir detective mystery and I can almost smell the smoke emanating from the jazz club as I write. Around the two-minute mark, a piercing guitar solo enters and threatens to upset the calm nature of the song before coming back down for the final verse – a very good use of dynamics indeed.
I enjoyed the ‘organic’ cuts of this EP a lot more than the ones destined to be club bangers, but that’s just personal preference. I’d be interested to hear some of these songs in a low-key setting, as I personally think her voice is sometimes overshadowed by the modern production choices. Leanne’s voice is the selling point and it would be a crime if she went unheard. She’d be a perfect feature for upcoming DJs as she has a diverse range of styles. If you’d like to purchase said EP, it’s available here.
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By Oliver Cobbin