Natty – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

Tonight’s venue seemed to be filling up nicely. I walked in halfway through what looked like the lead singer from The View playing an acoustic set. But no, this was a gentle, timid, quiet and unforgettable Karmina Francis. Such a powerful voice seemed inconceivable from this delicate artist. In-between songs she would talk shyly to the crowd, smiling and seemed to be overwhelmed by the crowd’s love for her. You could do nothing but stand in silence and admire her vocal talent. She provided a natural ability to disappear into her songs and have the crowd follow. She is currently working hard on her debut album on the Kitchenware Label and will inevitably become something special. At times you were faced with a lot of similarities to Adele’s voice, but musically it’s a different story.

Next up was the headline act; Natty. The room seemed to fill even more as it neared to the 9:00pm mark and anticipations were high. Fans cheered as the music stopped and the backing band picked up their instruments followed by an even bigger cheer as the cheeky dreadlock reggae king Natty took to the stage. He worked the crowd well, giving the advice of everything will be fine as long as you have ‘music and dancing’, which is exactly what he gave.

Some people have described Natty’s music as ‘listener-friendly acoustic reggae’. Very listenable indeed, to the point where Jack Johnson meets Bob Marley, and there is no other way to describe it.

Through the duration of the set he mingled with the crowd, dedicating songs to people from one parent families, to all the women and to all the men. At one point It seemed as though he had lost the plot (he looked very high at the time) ranting about a revolution, sofa’s and Playstations. His very easy going attitude seemed to warm the crowd to him, securing a brilliant reception upon finishing each track.

The backing band was very tight, each track flowed without one cock-up. At times the guitar licks sounded like Jack Penate with a fun-go-flow sound, which inevitably got the members of the audience dancing.

It was refreshing to see the role of a 2008 reggae pop star being fulfilled.

Cold War Kids – Loyalty To Loyalty

So, to the return of the Californian Soul four piece, Cold War Kids. If you were a fan of their debut Robbers And Cowards, then you are automatically a fan of Loyalty To Loyalty. The album is similar in many ways, yet different in others. In our two-year wait for this record, nothing much has changed.

Lead singer Nathon Willet continues his vocal domination on each track, providing cracked-throat blues and a soulful atmosphere. Plus the big beat, slow piano, jittery music works just as well as it did the first time. It’s hard to compare CWK to any other band around at the minute, and I like that.

The Opening track ‘Against Privacy’ sounds as if The Zutons have taken over the record, with a guitar sound from SpongeBob Squarepants. ‘Something Is Not Right With Me’ is a dry, 2min22sec, 2008 equivalent to ‘Hang Me Up To Dry’. It undoubtedly gets into your head and makes you sing along (even if you don’t want it too!).

‘I’ve seen enough’ is a more upbeat track that controversially feels as if it could be used in the credits to a bond film. ‘Relief’ has a more ’08 feel, with a very electro bass line and tech drum sound reminiscent of Kid Koala (Musically, not vocally). The rest of the album just seems to drag.

My advice for new listeners would be to give it a lot of time, Cold War Kids are sometimes hard to palette. Listening to the whole album in one sitting is like tackling a marathon, it is not advised.

Cold War Kids, Hang yourselves up to dry!

Plies – Definition Of Reality

I want to believe that Hip Hop/Thug Rap does still exist in it’s entirety of unique complex rhythms, clever lyrics and a whole bunch of street bad ass attitude. Plies album – ‘Definition of real’, is an acquired taste, with laid back beats and chilled out vocals.

I wish I could go back back to the days of D12, DMX, 50 Cent, they were good times, tracks like ‘In Da Club’ (50 Cent) were incredibly popular back then, but I fear no clubs will be playing Plies attempt at a hit record.

Don’t get me wrong, 200,000 copies sold in the first week of release and with two gold albums under his belt, Plies is obviously doing a good job, but I can’t help thinking where is the progression in this genre?

This record is Gangster/Thug rap, expectations of violence, abuse, money, and bad attitude are required, this album doesn’t fail to provide these contraband. With tracks like ‘Dat B**ch’, ‘Bushes’ and ‘S**t Bag’ fulfilling these expectations.

The track for me that stands out the most, I hate to say is track 6, Somebody (Loves You). It features a beautiful vocal sample/music by Soul/Gospel singer Patti LaBelle. Track 11 – Bust It Baby (Part 2) – (featuring Ne-Yo) also features music sampled from Janet Jackson’s love ballad ‘Come Back To Me’. ‘Watch Dis’ (Track 8), on listening over and over again gets into your head, with a Vocoder effect on the voice making it really cool.

The album overall seems roughly made, rushed in a way, no real outstanding music or lyrics. A typical, non-diverse rap record. Maybe for the masses of Hooded youths blasting songs out of very expensive mobile phones causing havoc on our streets. Each track simply makes you want to skip to the next track, then the next track until you find yourself right at the beginning again.

‘Who Hotter than Me’ …..erm sorry Plies, but a lot of other artists are!

Tracks to listen to:
6. Somebody (Loves You)
8. Watch Dis
11. Bust It Baby (Part 2) – (featuring Ne-Yo)
15. #1 Fan – (featuring J. Holiday/Keyshia Cole)

For fans of: T-Pain, Ne-Yo, Jamie Foxx etc

Deaf Havana – It’s called the easy life

There aren’t many bands with this brand of weird timing and de-tuned sounding riffs at the moment in the UK, but even if there were, Deaf Havana would still be at the top of their league.

Mixing brutal riffs with a very light pop-style voice on occasions makes the EP of high interest to me. Opener ‘This afternoon was a total disaster’ is a nice heavy start and 43 seconds into the track is where my interest is drawn – a very “Every Time I Die” style riff is introduced and has my head fully rocking.

The whole EP has a similar feel to it, with a slight mix of ‘Underoath’ mixed in there for good measure. Track 3 is the next prominent track; a very promising song and I can imagine how energetic this would sound live, but yet again, parts of the song are starting to sound a little too similar to “Every Time I Die”. This is when I ask myself the question “Is this really such a bad thing??”

The next track ‘The tune of ID’ show’s a very different side to the band, opening with a mellow and crisp sounding guitar tone and smooth flowing vocals (a lot like Incubus) before kicking in with a nicely timed and executed heaviness. Two and a half minutes in the song goes back to its roots before vocals of James and Ryan suddenly break through, with enough emotion to make your hair stand on end.

The 5th track (out of 6) ‘Love by the riverside’ is a short one, however it is also the most energetic yet; with a guitar riff so long and powerfully unique, it just proves that this band really know what they’re doing. The final track ‘ Oh Howard, you crack me up’ is my personal favourite. It’s clearly the strongest on the EP, and the vocals provide an epic atmosphere. This is definitely a song that Deaf Havana should release as a single.

The only problem with this EP is the fact that is only an EP. These songs are too powerful and of a high quality to not be part of a full length album. It’s a shame there isn’t much of a demand for this style of music in the UK, as I am convinced that if there were, these guys would be massive.