Albums of 2016 - Rachel Sermanni - Gently

Albums of 2016 - Rachel Sermanni - Gently

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I hope you haven't got any plans for the next half an hour, if you have, call them off because I guarantee there is nothing better you can do for yourself that cut to the end of my waffling words here and press play on the beguiling Gently EP by Rachel Sermanni.

Recorded with Rachel's friend Jennifer Austin (who has the final track named in her honour) in her flat and on her piano, the resulting four tracks ebb and flow with an understated yet hypnotising grace and beguiling beauty to results that touch deep inside. The opening "Gently" is pure poetry, a softly waltzing melody made up of little more than Rachel's acoustic guitar and Jen's piano chords, it leaves you with the sort of feeling that makes all your worries float away, dreamlike and devastatingly pretty with Rachel's breathy, ethereal voice and captivated words. That's a pretty accurate summation of the three "Gently" tracks which run into twenty minutes but feels half that, just exquisite. 

Rachel Sermanni #11 - Gently

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I hope you haven't got any plans for the next half an hour, if you have, call them off because I guarantee there is nothing better you can do for yourself that cut to the end of my waffling words here and press play on this beguiling new EP by Rachel Sermanni.

It's called Gently, as are three of the songs and came as something as a surprise when released late last week. I heard it for the first time last night after I'd got back from a rather wonderful gig by Liza Anne and Joseph and it hit me immediately.

Recorded with Rachel's friend Jennifer Austin in her flat and on her piano, the resulting four tracks ebb and flow with understated grace and beguiling beauty to results that touch deep inside. The opening "Gently" is pure poetry, a softly waltzing melody made up of little more than Rachel's acoustic guitar and Jen's piano chords, it leaves you with the sort of feeling that makes all your worries float away, dreamlike and devastatingly pretty with Rachel's breathy, sweetening voice and captivated words. That's a pretty accurate summation of the three "Gently" tracks which run into twenty minutes but feels half that, exquisite. 

I'm seeing Rachel next Monday in London as part of an incredible line-up of songwriters that also includes Billie Marten and Flo Morrissey, I doubt she'll play anything from this EP but if it's simply Rachel and Jen recreating this EP, I'll be a very, very happy boy indeed (or if it's anything like the gig at  No 14 Bacon St. No 14 Bacon St last summer).

Go an buy Gently now via Bandcamp.

Albums of 2015 #17 Rachel Sermanni - Tied to the Moon

Rachel Sermanni
Tied to the Moon
Released July 10th, 2015
Middle Of Nowhere Recordings

Rachel Sermanni was responsible for one of my favourite gigs of the year back in the summer, it was the day after I had returned from Glastonbury and I went to see Rachel perform a small, intimate gig at a brand new venue to me (the rather beautiful No 14 Bacon St. just off Brick Lane). In marked contrast to four days at the biggest music festival in the world, Rachel was performing in a small coffee shop with comfy chairs placed throughout and a dog in the audience. A real dog. It owned its own chair too. That dog knew how to rock.

The gig was the sort of show that reaffirms exactly why music is so powerful and potent to me, Rachel played entirely new material – taken from her latest album Tied To The Moon - and gave a back story to each track beforehand, what followed was a performance that made my hairs stand on end, both graceful and personal, elegant and dark, it's fair to say I walked out completely besotted. 

The recorded material stands up to the intimacy of that gig with the staggeringly pretty "Don't Fade" the perfect starting point, a melancholic ballad that's relatively simple in its delivery, little more than twinkling piano and light acoustic plucks but the result hits you hard in the gut as Rachel's gorgeously breathy vocal and poetic songcraft flutter siren like around the circling melody.

“Banks Are Broken” is one of the most delightful tracks of the year, a heartbreaking, emotional journey that brings out bother the purity and emotion in Rachel’s music like possibly no track before it and the albums closing track “This Love” is equally divine, awash with a dark atmosphere that is both mysterious yet devastatingly pretty is this never hurried song that flutters dreamlike amongst a luxurious bed of drifting instrumentation.

Elsewhere the release is the combination of gorgeous storytelling and finger-plucked melodies which Rachel has made her own and a bolder, darker direction. "Tractor" being the most extreme, a bold, stomping fuzz-popper that rumbles and growls with brooding intent around Rachel's delicious, breathy words. You're still hanging on to her every world, just tapping your feet whilst doing so. There's an electric guitar solo half way through too, I doubt too many were expecting that. That’s part of the delight that is Tied to the Moon, such a natural, gracious talent. We should treasure her.

Rachel Sermanni #10 - Don't Fade

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Since I last featured Rachel Sermanni on these very pages just a couple of weeks back with a beguiling live version of a new track "This Love" I've fallen even deeper in love with the Scottish songstress and her exquisite music.

The reason is simple, just over a week back, the day after I had returned from Glastonbury I went to see Rachel perform a small, intimate gig at a brand new venue to me (the rather beautiful No 14 Bacon St. just off Brick Lane, if you get chance to visit, you should, although it appears to be shut until September). In marked contrast to three days at the biggest music festival in the world Rachel was performing in a small coffee shop with comfy chairs placed throughout and a dog in the audience. A real dog. It owned its own chair too. That dog knew how to rock.

The gig was the sort of show that reaffirms exactly why music is so powerful and potent to me, Rachel played entirely new material backed by her friend Jennifer Austin on the cafe's piano and gave a back story to each track beforehand, what followed was a performance that made my hairs stand on end, both graceful and personal, elegant and dark, it's fair to say I walked out completely besotted. 

New track "Don't Fade" sums that up, a staggeringly pretty melancholic ballad that's relatively simple in its delivery, little more than twinkling piano and light acoustic plucks but the result hits you hard in you gut as Rachel's gorgeously breathy vocal and poetic songcraft flutter siren like around the circling melody. A swooning overload awaits.

"Don't Fade" Is taken from Rachel's new album Tied To The Moon released tomorrow July 10th (I'm all for universal release dates but a Friday? Who thought that one up?) via Middle Of Nowhere Recordings. Go and seek it out

Rachel Sermanni #9 - This Love (Live)

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Rachel Sermanni is nearing the release of her second LP Tied To The Moon (due 10th July through Middle of Nowhere), with the lead track "Tractor" already receiving a write-up here; 'a bold, stomping fuzz-popper that rumbles and growls along with brooding intent around Rachel's delicious, breathy words'.

I return to the Scottish songwriter to write about an overwhelmingly beautiful live version of the album's closing track "This Love". I'm not too sure of its origins (feel free to say) but It's simply divine and I had to share it, awash with a dark atmosphere that is both mysterious yet devastatingly pretty is this never hurried song that flutters dreamlike amongst a luxurious bed of drifting instrumentation, it immediately transports you to somewhere infinitely wonderful and breathtaking, I really don't want to have to switch off from it and head back to work...

Rachel plays all over the world over the next few months. You should find the date near you (full list).

Rachel Sermanni #8 - Tractor

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Rachel Sermanni's 2013 debut album Under Mountains was full of strong melodies bathed in heartfelt emotion and soothing vocal tone, both light and dark, delicate and defiant it was exquisite from first to last. However, if "Tractor", the first track to be taken from her follow-up Tied To The Moon released via Middle Of Nowhere Recordings on July 10th, is to believed we might be hearing an entirely different Rachel this time around...

There's an electric guitar solo half way through for a start, a doubt that's something you were expecting, yet it works. "Tractor" radiates as a bold, stomping fuzz-popper that rumbles and growls along with brooding intent around Rachel's delicious, breathy words. You're still hanging on to her every world, just tapping your feet whilst doing so. 

Rachel Sermanni #7 - Everything Changes

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The bewitching Rachel Sermanni returns with the title track from her forthcoming EP Everything Changes, a release you are able to support in the making of via a current Pledge Music campaign and is due for release on CD / 10" on January 27th if all goes well.

Musically sparse with little more than tenderly plucked acoustic guitar and the gentle twinkling of a piano "Everything Changes" captivates through Rachel's extraordinary way with words and her pure vocals. The result transfers you far away from the rush of City life to the peace and tranquility of her Scottish Highlands home, beguiling further on every listen around soothing tones and the repeated chorus of "everything changes, everything moves".

Rachel plays her biggest headline show to do date at London's Union Chapel on February 7th - details.

Just Music That I Like's Favourite Albums of the Year 2013 - Part Three

Just Music That I Like's Favourite Albums of the Year 2013 - Part Three

Previously posted: Part One // Two // Three // Four // Five

15. Golden Fable - Star Map

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An album which has criminally managed to stay off many peoples radar this year, perhaps due to the self-released nature of the album, still with support slots alongside Field Music and Wave Machines to come next year word is slowly getting out there about this wonderful duo.

Star Map is genuinely the most beautiful album on this list, the understated ethereal grace which carries the album throughout is one to truly immerse yourself in, a real natural beauty, "Always Golden" perfectly highlights Rebecca Palin's unique, haunting vocal, it's at the forefront throughout with the shimmering electronic beats and delicate key strokes

"Crossfire" is another likely to bring goosebumps to many, for those easily turned on, Star Map should carry a warning sticker, such an effecting beauty, spread the word.




14. Rachel Sermanni - Under Mountains

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With her captivating presence and exceptional song craft, in my humble opinion, Rachel Sermanni is one of the few who stands out above the current crowd of singer/songwriters, after a couple of EP's highlighting her talent I was delighted that her debut full-length Under Mountains fulfilled all my hearts desires and more.

"Waltz" slowly introduces a full band to accompany Rachel's guitar and sweet vocal tones, the combination creates intoxicating arrangements and strong melodies that stands true for much of Under Mountains. The command and attention to detail throughout the album is exceptional, Rachel in complete control of the flowing vocals and her depth of prose belie her youth.

The dark defiance of "The Fog" and the gorgeous, soothing tones of "Sleep" are all personal favourites too, offering a dozen finely crafted tracks in which Rachel's mesmerising voice resonates above genteel instrumentation and stirring full band sections, Under Mountains is bathed in heartfelt emotion and stunning harmonies, one of the years finest, of that there is no doubt..


13. I Like Trains - The Shallows

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By now you think you know what you are getting with I Like Trains, or at least you thought you did. The Leeds based post-rock band have changed things up with their latest album The Shallows, the predominant mood of their previous releases was, shall we say, glum, slow burning, emotive soundscapes with little room for light or hope, sure there were moments in their last "He Who Saw The Deep" where all was not grey but nothing quite like moments on The Shallows...

For how do you say it, "Mnemosyne" sees I Like Trains go disco, not a word that we've come to associate with them but "Mnemosyne" is most definitely funky. Sparse synth lines combine with a bass-line Hot Space era Queen would have been proud of, don't let it scare you off, the signature I Like Trains dynamic is similarly evident, at at their brooding best on "Reykjavik" with Dave Martin's impeccable baritone vocals, shimmering guitars and Simon Fogal's commanding drums and reflective on "Water/Sand" which finds their beautifully thought-out prose at its finest.

"Beacons" is another which glistens with twinkling synths hooks and chiming guitars, it works, I never thought it would but it does, sullen post-rock with a flamboyant electro edge,  I like it. The Shallows finds the new I Like Trains as absorbing as ever.




12. The Staves - Dead & Born & Grown

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A long time coming some may say, The Staves debut album Dead & Born & Grown is a perfect summation of the girls journey so far, with older tracks "Mexico" and "Facing West" as exquisite as ever, sitting perfectly alongside tracks from the earlier Motherlode EP and newer songs too, much will be said about the sisters rich harmonies and genteel melodies (with good reason), which slowly and luxuriously linger in your brain like a Sunday afternoon with a glass of fine malt whisky.

Highlights are throughout, the a cappella "Wise and slowly" is hymnal perfection, the tender "Pay Us No Mind", like so much of the album, is just beautiful while "Tongue Behind My Teeth" sees the sister take some Americana influences with a kick-drum beat propelling jangling guitar and dusty melodies which sweep and stomp like the outlaw video that accompanies the track. The Staves blend their heavenly harmonies together as well as any I've previously heard and Dead & Born & Grown is the perfect for the winter months, completely irresistible, don't miss out.




11. Echo Lake - Wild Peace

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[Previously posted on my Tips of 2012: One Year On post]

Echo Lake have had a year of ups and downs, the tragic news of the death of their drummer Pete Hayes overshadowed everything else but the subsequent empowerment of the band, including fundraisers and emotional tributes only highlighted the togetherness and closeness of the group who earlier in the year released their delightful debut full length Wild Peace. As beautiful a listen as any album this year, Wild Peace seamlessly fizzes with immersive, shimmering bliss.

Track after track of intoxicating, beyond-luscious melodies in which we find Linda Jarvis' reverberating vocals floating around, highlights are aplenty, from the re-imagining of earlier single "Another Day", the only pure pop tune on display with chiming chords to the rockier "Young Silence" and swirling "In Dreams" (both again reworked from their 2011 EP appearances, starting with a soft tapestry of sounds before rising in intensity to an explosive finale while the gorgeous "Swimmers" is the hazy, dreamy come-down. Though that's a paragraph that fails to mention the closing track "Just Kids", a seven minute course on how to generate the perfect atmospheric of slowly building wonder or the title track, equally worthy of praise.

Amongst the reasons for my support of the band over the last year is the beautiful, progressive arrangements of their tracks, "Even the Blind" is like a journey in itself, from its dreamy, luxurious outset where Linda's beautiful ethereal coo's, chiming guitars and a metronomic beat purposely lead towards its foot-stomping tempo switch, the drumbeat sees the main shift in intensity in the songs second quarter, hard-hitting and stadium sized they suddenly drop leaving the shimmering textures on a cliff-edge before the track again gathers pace and surges towards its euphoric climax. To sum up, "Even the Blind" is basically a five minute roller-coaster that's exhilarating, soothing and absolutely wonderful, wild and peaceful, yeah I get that title.