For want of content during lockdown I broke borders and publicised about music worldwide, gradually crawling Devizine back to its original ethos of focussing on local happenings. Pardon me if I don’t get all Royston Vasey on this EP, recorded in the South of France, for the reasoning is twofold; Paul Lappin originates from Swindon only partially significant, mostly it’s because for music this good I’m willing to break any rules about content I might’ve once made!
Through the album The Boy Who Wanted to Fly, if in October 2020 I raved about the Britpop goodness of Paul and his band, the Keylines, a following live unplugged and largely acoustic release Christmas last year, Live at Pink Moon Studiossimply knocked it out of the park for me. Stripped back and set within an intimate lockdown performance, Live at Pink Moon Studios not only reinforced the absolute brilliance of Lappin, it earmarked its place in my all-time favourites, outside the confines of what we review here.
No pressure then, Paul, if I don’t compare this new release to other items currently in review, rather provide assurance to our readers, this again dreamy, mostly acoustic new EP Flowers in the Snow, is immediately enchanting, best paralleled with John Martyn, Jeff Buckley, or Nick Drake, the latter of whom I’d imagine Paul to cite, being the studio name refers to a Drake album.
Though, I feel at times, aforementioned comparisons are somewhat lost in their own era, Paul reflects this too, his work never retrospective, it sounds fresh for the now, as Britpop comes of age, this is matured indie, favourably over a beechwood fireplace in a cabin recollecting times past, with a customary glass of wine.
Three average-length tunes make up this EP, though as suspected, that’s all which is average here. A tale of better times on their way begins the proceedings, a best served acoustically title track. It smooths the soul, quite literally. Moodier soundscape introduction of subtle guitar riff following for track two, Blue and Gold, brings out the best in Johannes Saal’s drums and bass, and Thomas Monnier’s subtle congas.
“The rest of my band were busy with other projects,” Paul explains of springtime, “I spent a week at Pink Moon residential studios in the south of France working on some new ideas with producer and recording artist Saal.” The result is this EP; three songs loosely linked by the theme of the seasons and mixed on a beautiful 1980’s GDR era broadcast desk. “The download includes a 14-minute bonus track of all three songs linked together, as was originally intended.”
Okay, so I’m guessing spring on Flowers in the Snow, dead reckoning Blue and Gold is summer, but the last tune confirms, it’s winter; Not Hiding Just Sliding is perhaps the most experimental, such a beguilingly unassuming melody, holding you out to dry in want for more. This is an exceptional set of flowing songs, no two-ways about it, if the seasons really came and went as smoothly as this, I’d still be wearing a t-shirt and khaki shorts through the bleak midwinter!
If you need a breather from the perpetual cycle of cliche Christmas song mush, do yourself a favour; Paul Lappin & The Keylines released a live EP last week, it’s as “name your price” on Bandcamp, and I’ll wager my Christmas stocking and all of its contents, you’ll eternally thank me for the advice.….
On the 12th November 2021 Paul Lappin & The Keylines invited a few close friends and family to Pink Music Studios in France for a chilled evening of wine, food and live music. This EP is a recording of five of the songs performed during that session. For a tenacious link to our ambiguous local rule, note while now residing in France, Paul is originally from Swindon.
Back in October 2020 we fondly reviewed his studio album The Boy Who Wants to Fly, celebrating its vibrant Britpop rock, immersed in some astute and genius song writing prose. And in turn, we were allowed to use the outstanding single Broken Record for our Julia’s House charity compilation. For which, you might suggest, I’m duty bound to sing the praises of everyone who contributed, to which I’d reply, yeah, only partly but unnecessary, just shut up and listen to this; Live at Pink Moon Studios is utterly gorgeous.
If Broken Record packs a punch, and The Boy Who Wants to Fly meanders between forthright rock and tenderer acoustics, this little piece of wonderful revels in the latter. So much so, it smooths out of the restrictions of a label like Britpop, though subtle shards of it remain, and is comparable to acoustic folk rock from way beyond the subgenre, say, as steady and emotive as Nick Drake.
In the past I’ve made comparison to our own song-writing local legend Jamie R Hawkins, in their shared ability to twist a narrative so deeply into sentiment, tears will well; this EP comes closer to my point than I’ve ever heard from Paul. It’s so wonderfully placed subjects, wistfully glides your mind away, on the journey with Paul, like all good acoustic should.
The first two tunes, After the Rain, and Lying Awake in the Dark both come unplugged versions from The Boy Who Wants to Fly, Slow and Steady featured on his 2018 album, Move On, and I’m uncertain of the last two, Seeds of Doubt and Set in Stone, perhaps they’re new, or exclusive to this EP. I’m far from all out intending to research their origin, as it’s just to easy to be set adrift on the songs, relishing in the moment.
Morish simplicity, man and guitar composition you’ll crave it never ends, and I can honestly say, I don’t think I’ve hit the replay button with such haste before! Paul is at his dreamiest, fluffiest and virtually subterranean in his deliverance of these masterpieces.
Subjects not so unusual but handled with the proficiency to wow, of lost or found love, picking up with a bongo drumbeat and wailing electric backing guitar at track three, Slow and Steady, with a chorus dripping of anthemic Britpop, of Oasis or Verve in their prime, yet maintaining that spellbinding acoustic goodness.
And for the last two tunes of mysterious origins, are perhaps my favourites, Seeds of Doubt, is a self-analysis theme, mind-bogglingly passionate, and the parable soulful finale, Set in Stone, as is with a live album, there’s a wholesome rawness about it, echoing honesty and scrupulousness throughout, you feel like you’re a guest into a secret meeting, you feel a part of it, and that, is simply, beautiful.
Bag yourself some of our recommended long players for your friends, family or even yourself this Christmas and help a local musical talent.
Look at him, Grumpus Maximus, slouching on his sofa-throne investigating the inside of his y-fronts with one hand and clasping a tinnie with the other. He’ll need Google maps to find his local watering hole when things return to normal, and if he has to endure Kirstie Allsopp for one more half-hour episode he’ll threaten to relocate to his shed for the yule. What do you get for someone like pops this Christmas, or anyone who’s lost the will of independent thought due to the modest inability to enjoy the odd fellow and guitar down their pub of choice, for that matter?
How about this suggestion; buy a CD from a local hero? Because not only will you cheer the old bugger up enough for him to consider shaving once a week, but you’ll be putting your hard-earned shekels into the hands of a local independent creative sort, who, without revenue from standing in a draughty pub alcove singing the blues, really needs some pocket money right now.
It’s not my idea, I say let them scavenge for dead flies on their filthy windowsills while insanely mumbling a ditty about minute pixies invading grassroot venues. Thanks to our reader, George for this suggestion. Of course, this is the 21st century, or so I’ve been informed, and nowadays next to nothing is physical. Much as we find the online format or download accessible, you can’t wrap an online stream up with a pretty bow and put it under your tree. So, our list is restricted to the ones putting out a CD copy; that’s a compact disc to youngsters, or even, dare I say it, vinyl, you know, some archaic listening format.
But how, ye cry. I’m going to provide links where I can, but another shot is your local indie record store; for if they care one iota for music, they’ll stock a range of locally sourced sounds. If they don’t tell them to, without swearing.
Here’s an ideal template to use: “the brilliant, one and only Vinyl Realm Music Store in old Devizes town stocks many local artist discs, so I suggest if you want to be half as good as them, you’d consider it.” And that, is one good place to start; open the yellow door on Northgate Street, turn to your right and by the window there’s a stand with some local outpourings on. If you get lost ask one of the owners, they bite but not hard. I know, shopping is beneath you, be aware they have an online service and will deliver, cos they’re nice like that.
Am I waffling now? I tend to tangent, like to, did you come here for that, or are you looking for some music options? Very well, sit quietly, or stand noisily if you like, and I shall begin…. hopefully before Boxing Day. But oi, bear in mind this isn’t a top twenty countdown, I just used that as the title for clickbait. I’ve not put these in any kind of hierarchy or rank, just listed alphabetical by artist name, to prove I know my A, B, C!
Billy Green 3: Still
Released at the beginning of this year, Devizes post-Britpop trio produce a beguiling sound that could’ve come straight from indie’s finest hour. It’s scooterist, with a taste of mod and soul, but it’s passionately scribed and delivered proudly. Review. Buy@ Vinyl Realm.
Chris Tweedie: Reflections
Affectionately reviewed at the beginning of the month, Melksham-based monarch of chill, Chris Tweedie has produced a mind-blowing album. If you like Mike Oldfield, Crosby, Stills and Nash, or George Harrison, you need to check this one out. Review. Buy.
Cracked Machine: Gates of Keras
Hometown space-rock has never been so good. This is the outfit’s second album, and its journey of spacey rock like no other. Fans of Pink Floyd or the Ozrics will relive every minute of their misspent youth and clamber to the loft to find their fractural posters and chillum! Review. Buy.
Erin Bardwell: Interval
This year, without his Collective, Swindon’s rock steady keyboard virtuoso blessed us with this unique lockdown inspired bundle of distant memories over sparse two-tone and reggae beats. If you think this genre can be samey, you’ve not heard Erin Bardwell. This album is one of a kind. Review. Buy.
George Wilding: Being Ragdollian
Let the arguments begin, this 2013 EP is the definitive George Wilding. One not to collate tracks to an album, the EP may only contain three songs, but their brilliance makes up for at least ten mediocre ones. You can grab this at Vinyl Realm.
Joe Edwards: Keep on Running
Whilst it’s had glowing international reviews, locally I feel this is severely unacquainted. Though I did say at the time of review I’ll be hard pressed to find another ‘album of the year,’ back in May, this still stands. This is melancholic Americana played out with utter perfection, and I will never tire of its authentic and sublime stories. Review. Buy.
Jon Amor: Colour in the Sky
Though we fondly reviewed Jon’s latest album just yesterday, like I said, that’s one which is only on download at the moment. Take his 2018 masterpiece of quirky electric blues as red, red as his telephone; this is the must-have album for every fan of local music. You can buy this in Devizes Books as well as Vinyl Realm, or you can buy online. Here’s a review from all those heavenly years ago, when Devizine was funny.
The King Dukes: Numb Tongues
Out in 2018, if you like your music with a taste of old-timey soul and blues, The King Dukes of Bristol do this with bells on. Numb Tongues is lively and memorable. Review. Buy.
Little Geneva: Eel Pie
Freshly produced and lively sixties mod-blues-rock done supremely, Little Geneva are Bristol-based but the Docherty brothers have the Devizes connection, enough to debut this down the Bear’s Cellar Bar a few years ago, and boy, was it a sweaty and memorable night! Buy.
Mr Love & Justice: Watchword
Mr Love himself, Swindon’s Steve Cox’s 2009 album is a must, a classic, even though I haven’t reviewed it, because it’s dated, its gorgeous acoustic goodness extends beyond atypical country-rock sounds and branches into many genres, even bhangra at one point. You can find this in Vinyl Realm for a mere fiver.
Mr Tea & The Minions: Mutiny!
Oh my, this chunk of energetic Balkan-ska influenced Bristol folk is breathtakingly good. I reviewed it last year, haven’t gotten over it yet! Review. Buy.
Paul Lappin: The Boy Who Wants to Fly
Breezy Britpop acoustics shine throughout this ingeniously written debut from Swindon’s Paul Lappin. Highly recommended and all-round good vibes. Review. Buy.
Phil Cooper: These Revelation Games
Trow-Vegas legend, Phil Cooper really gives it some with his latest offering, rocking out the lockdown. Review. Buy.
Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue: Live at the Louisiana
No list would be complete without a bit of Ruzz Guitar and the gang; guitar by name and nature. This album captures his skill where he does it best, live. Rock n roll the night away as if you were there; this is a must have album for blues and rock n roll fans. Review. Buy.
Sound Effects: Everyday Escapism
Self-penned Irish-fashioned folk at it’s most divine, Swindon duo Cath and Gouldy classic here. This is sweet and thought-provoking. Review. Buy.
Strange Tales: Unknown to Science
I’m unsure how old this is, but I do recall Pewsey singer Sally Dobson running back to her car to get me a copy at the long-lost Saddleback Festival. With Paul Sloots, Strange Tales are a wonderful if occasional electronica gothic-rock duo, and Unknown to Science is a spookily glorious album. Review. Buy or at Vinyl Realm.
Talk in Code: Resolve
True, Swindon’s darlings of indie-pop have come along way since this 2018 album, fashioned closer each time to retrospective eighties electronica, Resolve stands as a testament to their dedication, but more importantly highlights their roots in indie-rock. Review. Buy.
Tamsin Quin: Gypsy Blood
Man-about-Devizes, surely, you’ve a copy of this already? Tamsin Quin’s debut 2018 debut album is something kinda wonderful, eight self-penned nuggets of goodness introduces you to the now one third of the Lost Trades and personifies anything that was awesome about our local music circuit. A local classic. Review. Available in Vinyl Realm, or online.
The Lost Trades: EP
When three of our most loved local musicians officially bonded, debuting at the Pump just prior to lockdown, it was clear all their talents combined into this one project and could only ever be a winner. We highly anticipate the debut album, but for now, this five track EP will whisk you to a better era of folk harmonies. All original songs, there’s a taste of Phil, Jamie and Tamsin’s song writing talents, though each track wouldn’t look out of place on the Oh Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Review. Buy.
Ya Freshness & the Big Boss Band: Knockout
Boots and braces time, get skanking to the loud and proud ska sound of Ya Freshness and the Big Boss Band. This is joyful, fun and chockful of ska and rock steady riddims from 2018. We eagerly await a new double-album promised from these Bristol misfits of ska, but for now, this is great. Review. Buy.
No way is this list exhaustive; I’ve basically run this off adlib and will no doubt suddenly think, “oh bugger, I forget this or that.” But I’ve nailed it down to twenty, which was tricky. Do feel free to add a comment on something I might have overlooked, and apologises if I did. Remember, it should be available as physical copy. This is an interactive article!
Message my advice line if you’re still in the dark for a pressie for Dad. Helpful hint, look through his old records. If you see one of a pig floating above Battersea power station, or a plain black album with a spectrum shining through a triangle, try Cracked Machine. If you see lots of black and white chequered patterns or a naked girl’s torso with Tighten Up written across her abdomen, try Erin Bardwell or Ya Freshness. And if you see a rather splendidly busty woman carrying a hosepipe and various decorating equipment, try The Lost Trades; best of luck!
Tad snowed under with the plethora of great new music at the moment, but delighted to hear Swindon’s breezy Britpop fashioned artist, Paul Lappin has progressed from the few singles we’ve reviewed fondly in the past, to release an album of all new material, this week. So, yeah, apologies for lack of advance notice, The Boy Who Wants To Flyis out now, and very worthy of our attention.
It binds all the goodness of the singles into something you can nourish extensively, there’s a real concentration of composition here as each track drifts adroitly. It’s astutely written pensiveness, nicely implemented, with the expertise likened to our own Jamie R Hawkins; I’ve made this comparison before. This moulds what could be great acoustic into a full band experience, handsomely; As Billy Green 3 are accomplishing this side of the M4, but let’s not get all road map. Best way, imagine George Harrison present on the Britpop scene, and you’re somewhere lost in Lappin’s world.
Not a lot standout in theme, Paul mostly takes on the classic subject matters, sometimes optimistic romance, often uplifting reflections on past observation, such as the title track which Paul clarifies, “it was originally written for my young nieces and nephews, but listening to it now I can also hear a lot of my younger self in there.” But there’s a nod to current affairs, such as the citation towards the refugee crisis in the wonderfully executed Song for Someone.
I’m getting shards of Tom Petty’s Freefalling, particularly with the title track. Story behind the album reaches back six years, when Paul was looking after an isolated farmhouse in the Occitanie region of the south of France, coinciding with a particularly motivated period developing song ideas. “Most of the songs on the album were written within the first few months of arriving at the house,” he explains, “the melodies came during long walks in the surrounding hills and vineyards, the lyrics were penned in local cafés.”
Ten tunes strong, optimism drops by the eighth, The Eye of the Storm, and darker, heavier elements ensue, if only for a track. “Eye of the Storm was a reaction to how helpless and frustrated I felt to all the crap that was going on at the time,” Paul elucidates. Life was Good is critically observant too, but retains the feel-good factor, and that sums the general ambiance of the entire album. Common with creative geniuses, they shy, and this self-indulgence uneasiness I see in Paul. “Entering the For The Song competition in 2019 changed all that,” he expressed when he won with the song Life Was Good, boosting his confidence, which has ultimately led to this worthy and proud album; as he rightfully should be. I urge you to take a listen.
A cracker of a single from Swindon’s Paul Lappin this week, a Britpop echoing of Norwegian Wood, perhaps, but tougher than that which belongs on Rubber Soul. Broken Record is an immediate like, especially the way it opens as crackling vinyl and the finale repeats the final line into a fade, as if it was indeed, a broken record.
Shrewdly written, the venerable subject of a passionate breakup metaphors the title, “ignore the voice of reason, leave the key and close the door, do you think you’re ready, to become unsteady, like a broken record, you have heard it all before.” Paul does this frankly, with appetite and it plays out as a darn good, timeless track.
It’s head-spinning rock, intelligent indie. Harki Popli on tabla drum and Jon Buckett’s subtle Hammond organ most certainly attributes to my imaginings of a late-Beatles vibe. Yet if this is a tried and tested formula, as I believe I’ve said before about Paul’s music, he does it with bells on.
“Lying Awake in the Dark,” the new single from Swindon’s indie soloist Paul Lappin, drives a breezier and more melodic sound than previous singles, taking me to something Jamie R Hawkins or Phil Cooper might conjure. As his third single to discover on Bandcamp since the upbeat “Life Was Good,” near on a year ago, here’s an indie-pop rock artist I’ve just discovered, worthy of lots of attention.
Though our friend Dave Franklin, over at Dancing About Architecture got there first, describing Paul’s sound thus, “it bridges a gap between the sweeter sounds of the pre-Britpop era and today’s indie creations. This is an infusion of past and present, a blend of indie, rock and pop which is at turns melodic, euphoric and soulful but always honest, relevant, reflective and passionately in love with life.”
There’s a positively determine, tried and tested formula at work here, which may break no new ground, yet is beguiling nonetheless, and needs no experimentation. While the first two singles prompt me to suggest, though proficient, it’s all quite contemporary indie-pop, joyous and optimistic, Lappin reflects on the more melancholic theme a lost love with “Lying Awake in the Dark,” and to be honest, it suits. Backed by partial exerts of female vocals, provided harmoniously by Emily Sykes, whispering through the melody, the composition is exquisite.
Paul spent some time in rural isolation in France, polishing his song-writing skills, along with painting and sketching. Winning a song-writing competition with his debut single, the aforementioned “Life Was Good,” the story starts here. No stranger to this self-isolation era then, Paul says, “it feels familiar, all be it under very different circumstances. But now I’m confined to my parents’ house in England, where I’ll continue to draw, paint, and write songs. Might as well make the most of it.” Paul strives towards an album release shortly; something to watch out for from him, his handful of backing performers and Swindon’s celebrated Earthworm Studios.
There’s a kind of rueful honesty and openness about Paul’s building discography, the sort after attending just the single gig I’d imagine you retire with the content notion you know this guy, hence my comparison to our Jamie or Phil. Tracks are downloadable for a mere quid, for example; there’s no fleecing here. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear the cover art is a self-portrait, here you get the whole package of a person. It is, though, a watermark of a great acoustic musician, and Paul fits that bill.