Songs from the Inbox: Kima – up and coming British pop and RnB

This entry has been a bit longer in the making since some “left on read”-mails but now we’re all set. Kima is a British songwriter who contacted me due to a lovely pop-song that would fit perfectly on the “Love Actually”-soundtrack, it has this great epic Christmas/Winter-pop-ballad feel (think of Natasha Bedingfield or Leona Lewis) and that orchestral arrangement is the kind of pathos I adore. The song was written during lockdown and is supposed to give a little hope to everyone who felt/feels down like a clown in a drown pound during this time of isolation.

(Honestly, this is the kind of pop song that’s on my morning-playlist)

Kima has recently released a song for a charity project for homeless people (Shelter). It has been a hard year for all of us due to the pandemic but homeless people have suffered immensely because there were fewer people in the cities to give them some money but also, due to social distancing measures, etc. it was a lot harder for charity organisations to work with the people in need, since they often could not afford all the measures that we could take in all our privilege.

I also did a small mail interview with Kima, which you can read here because why not?

Did staying mostly at home influence the way you write songs? Did it change the way you look at your music? Was it harder/easier?

Staying at home actually did change the way I write songs! I think it made the process a lot easier, because I had so much more time to just ‘be’. Since I was reflecting so much on things that have happened in my life, my values and priorities, and the world seemed to be crashing and burning around us all – there was so much content to write about and so much time to write. I also found it really therapeutic, because the beginning of lockdown was quite scary. I’ve had to shield for 5 months because I’m considered to be at ‘extreme risk’ to getting coronavirus. At first seeing all the news headlines about the virus was absolutely terrifying! So writing music at my piano was my escape. 

Your new single “If nobody told you” is a total bop! I wondered whether you had a specific person/audience in mind when you wrote it? (Like a person you want to adress)

I wrote my new single, ‘If Nobody Told You’, as an inspirational piece to help lift people’s spirits after long periods of isolation during lockdown. While shielding in my house and with so much craziness is happening in the world, (coronavirus, the Black Lives Matter protests), it’s so easy to feel powerless. This song is written from God’s perspective and it reminds me of how God sees me, and how He sees you too. It was a reminder to me and everyone that we’re still loved, we’re still powerful, we’re still heard. We can make a lot of impact from our own homes.

Also, how did you produce it? Can you talk a bit about the process from first idea to finished song? Was it all home produced (aka lockdown-studio?)

Thankfully I have a home studio set up! It’s suuuper basic and is essentially just a laptop, microphone, audio interface and reflection filter but it’s good enough that I can record full on singles from there. I work with a producer who lives in Birmingham, so for this song I did a first draft on Logic Pro of what I wanted it to sound like, with the strings and the orchestral feel. Then I sent it to him and he added his magic to it!

If you were to write an album, would you want to stick to a genre or rather explore different musical avenues?

I would definitely explore! I’m planning on releasing an EP in early 2021, and it will definitely be ‘multi-genre’, I have been described as ‘genre bending’ and I absolutely love that title. There are so many different sounds that influence my music. Being in the Welsh National Youth Opera when I was younger made me fall in love with classical music. Then at home, the sounds of Motown music and gospel defined my childhood. So I have a wide array of influences, which definitely reflects in my music. I did previously struggle with the thought of not having one specific “sound”, but I think that’s such a closed and archaic way to approach music. I think a degree of variety within an artist is authentic and also really interesting for listeners too! They’ll never know exactly what to expect.

I am also super interested how performing for youtube differs from performing on stage. Does it change the way you sing, do you have to prepare differently?

This is such a good question! I think performing for videos is a lot more laid-back and relaxed. I’m aware that if I’m doing too much, or too expressive, it might come across strangely on camera and I might look like a bit of a psychopath. But in real life, on stage, there are no limits. I can literally be as crazy as I want (well, nearly as crazy as I want to be!).

Also, I am obsessed with Wales (spent an exchange year there and will never shut up about it), what would the three hot spots in Pontypridd be? Just in case, we’ll ever get to travel again.

Oooh what a cool question! I think it’s awesome that you spent a year in Wales! I mean, Ponty is a small town but there are still some things to see and do. If you go, check out the Old Bridge which, when it was built, was the longest single spanning bridge in Europe. Pontypridd has a lot of beautiful countryside, which I think people forget, so do take the time to go for walks.   

Favorite Song: Valerie June ‘You and I’ – friendship is magic

If I ever get drawn in by a cult that lures in people with beautiful songs and angelic wardrobes, I hope they can even remotely reach the kind of bliss I feel when I listen to June Valerie’s new song “You and I”, a love song for a friendship that developed after the romantic relationship didn’t work out (if I correctly interpret the lyrics “when the love left just a friendship that’s when we found our greatest gift”). According to June, the song is about the beauty of love in all relationships which I adore because everything but romantic love usually gets the short straw when it comes to songwriting.

The song is a gorgeous art pop slice of cotton candy and only the softest guitar strings gliding over June’s soft vocals. June is from Memphis Tennessee and yes, there are quite a few influences from country and (Appalachian) folk music. I have no idea why I haven’t posted anything about her earlier because I already fell in love with her previous albums, especially “The Order of Times” from 2017 is gorgeous.

“You and I” can be found as a sort of EP/Maxi Single together with the equally lovely song “Stay” which is leaning more towards the soul/gospel side of her music and laments the half-life period of relationships and life in general. Also, the interlude is a flute’s midsummer night’s dream, it’s like wandering into some sort of Narnia, but without the heavy religious symbolism.

And because it’s close to Christmas and this year has been hard, Valerie June gifted us with a whole music video for the entire EP. Enjoy.

Horror Movie List: Witches will get you and eat you, that’s just how it is

Witches are an amazing thing. They exist pretty much all over the world in myths and fairy tales in one form or the other. They are usually closely bound to nature and represent its healing and destroying powers. They are desired when people can’t seem to help themselves with what current science has to offer and they are feared (and blamed) whenever things go wrong. And boy oh boy, can they wreak havoc. I love witches. From the Russian Babajaga in her lovely house on a rooster’s foot to that gnarly old broad in her cookie house luring kids in for a nice BBQ.

They also make for some amazing movie villains because they are so carnal and dark, earthy and cruel if they need be. They can be everything and nothing. Yes, there’s loads of awful trash movies with witches but those movies that get them wrong are pretty fantastic.

So, let’s go!

The Witch (2015)

Look, I hardly understand what the protagonist’s are talking about half of the time due to the historical accuracy of their dialects but this movie is one hellride of creating an atmosphere that sits heavy in your stomach the entire time, like waking up in the middle of the night, not knowing why but feeling that there is something off. It’s absolutely gorgeous, disgusting and really disturbing. It’s also one of those movies that I wouldn’t recommend to casual horror fans because there are some “can’t be unseen”-scenes. But boy oh boy, if there ever was someone doubting that witches are scary – what a fool.

Blair Witch Project (1999)

Hey, you didn’t think I would leave our beloved Blair Witch out, now did you? I also wonder whether by now, this movie might be something to discover anew for younger generations since it’s been ages since it came out. And I wonder whether it packs a punch for these generations because it is quite low on the cool effects-scale and instead works a lot with rattling your imagination.  

Gretel & Hänsel (2020)

This artsy horror movie is absolutely gorgeous and does a great job in mixing modern imagery with the folksy earthen terror of being poor and lost in the woods. Galo Olivares did the cinematography and Oz Perkins directed, who is kinda known for gorgeous, brooding horror movies with a kick (also, he’s working on “Head full of Ghosts”, a favorite novel of mine so I can’t wait to see what he turns it into).

Alice Krige is an absolute delight and the story itself has this beautiful surreal air to it, like a modern sequel to “The Company of Wolves” but without the anthology-aspect.

In this version of the Grimm folk tale, it’s not Hänsel but Gretel who gets tied up deeper and deeper in the witches’ spell (which – I guess – is the reason why the title switches their names). It might be a smidge “style over substance” and that voice-over tends to break the mood a little bit but since the movie nevertheless offers some tantalising images and has a great, tense atmosphere, I’ll allow it.

The Wretched (2020)

Whatever you think this movie will be when you see the first 10 minutes, I can assure you, it will be wrong. This movie is absolutely genius, hiding a truly disturbing, terrifying concept (with some big scares) under the guise of your suburbian “weird neighbour” horror plot. It’s probably one of the very few big horror surprises for me this year and has all the witch horror you need.  

Also, if you want witchy songs, here’s a fun playlist for them.

And you’ll find more horror movie lists here.  

Favorite Song: Bishi – ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’ is a world of wonders

Bishnupriya Bhattacharya’s new single ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’ is one of the most wondrous, surprising pop songs I’ve heard in a long while. Believe me, you will not know what hits you when you hear the intro.

This song is an experience. I love that the whole song has so many different references and parts but still keeps that air of floating in a fluid space, like gliding from one state of existence into the other. I get heavy 90s vibes (for some reason, Neneh Cherry’s and Youssou n’dour’s “7 Seconds” popped up in my mind, don’t ask me why) and I love how epic the song sounds. It’s almost to big for listening to it in your boring home, it’s like you’d need to change forms and step into another plane of existence to be worthy of listening to it.

According to getinherears.com (heavily recommended if you’d like to listen to more female artists but don’t know where to get your fix), Bishi midi-maps her Sitar to Ableton Push to work the Sitar into her song classically and modern at once. According to the site, the song is about new beginnings and saying farewell to the old ways. I guess the title refers to the pain of change and how often the ones who bring change are rather unpopular because change is hard, you know and people don’t like it when you make them do hard things.

Bishi is a British singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist and a whole lotta other things (producer, composer and DJ). She is also the founder of WITCiH, which stands for Women in Technology Creative Industries Hub.

You know, I immediately thought about Frank Zappa and Peter Gabriel, who were/are big ole nerds when it comes to musical technology. But also of Imogen Heap and Cher who both were responsible of introducing auto tune into two completely different genres and in two completely different ways. I love that there’s whole communities now for women who explore and exchange technological innovations for art – it’s not like they never did before but with a Hub, maybe more people will hear about it (therefore also avoiding the media’s tendency to otherwise speak of any innovative woman as if she’s been the first ever and so much like the men in the field).

Yeah, take a look at Bishi’s Wiki page, she’s one of those musician’s musicians who worked with everyone, did everything and goes in all experimental directions possible.

Bishi’s biography is also interesting because she learned from many famous classical Indian musicians (amongst them her mother Susmita Bhattacharya, an acclaimed classical Indian singer) and also worked with some of the biggest British musicians, so by now she is probably one of the most powerful experimental musicians alive because the artists who know their classics and still get all weird, usually are phenomenal. Also, how lovely is that song that Bishi did with her mother (thinking about it, there’s not many daughter-mother-duos outside of Christian pop, right?).

This song is beautiful, it’s a soft cloud, I want to move into the song and live there, please.

Favorite Song: ‘Toss a coin to your witcher’ is the bop I never knew I needed

Since I first dove into the sexy, camp but also surprisingly well made fantasy spectacle of The Witcher-Netflix-show, I could not get this bloody song out of my head and it makes me so happy every time. It’s the fantasy geek’s “Call me maybe” (and I do love “Call me maybe”). I just recently thought of writing about it because I am in the middle of watching The Witcher again, so don’t even start on how late I am, I KNOW!

The song was written by Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli with lyrics by Jenny Klein, which is important because without that beautiful line “O valley of plenty”, I doubt that this would have turned into the epic earworm it became.

Now, Sonya Belousova is a Russian-born American composer and pianist who was a child prodigy and is now an adult prodigy who did the whole (gorgeous!) Witcher soundtrack together with Giona Ostinelli who is a Swiss-Italian composer who started to play drums when she was 5 – as young girls often do.

Now, the lyrics are thanks to Jenny Klein who is co-producer and writer for The Witcher and specifically wrote the second episode “Four Marks” which tells the story of how Geralt met that annoying but no doubt talented bard Jaskier which eventually led to this amazing composition. In an interview, Klein explained that she did write this song not just for merry dancing but also for plot reasons. Since Jaskier’s whole thing was the talkative hilarious sidekick, the question arose why Geralt would tolerate him, since, you know, Jaskier is talkative and hilarious and that’s not necessarily what someone like Geralt seeks for in a friend (with his best friend being a very quiet and good horse).

With Jaskier working as a PR person for Geralt, therefore leading to more jobs (aka more money), there was suddenly a real reason why they both still stuck together. It’s honestly a bloody brilliant idea and also shows the charming way that the show doesn’t take itself too seriously.

But wait, there’s even more humor to it. Apparently, the place of Geralt’s adventure in episode 2 has an Elvish name that roughly translates to “valley of plenty” and Klein thought ‘what, he doesn’t even get paid in the valley of plenty?’, hence the chorus.

There have been many versions of the music, since Belousova and Ostinelli tried out different styles (some more modern than others) but apparently during a Yoga session the muse struck and the melody we all cheerily hum was born. However, melody isn’t everything and it took 8 months till the final recording (apparently, there were up to 64 instruments involved, all played by Belousova and Ostinelli themselves). This is because the composers wanted to reflect the diversity of The Witcher-universe within the song which is a beautiful idea.

Also, let’s give it up for Joey Batey, who gives Jaskier so much life. I actually didn’t like the character much in “The Wild Hunt” but Batey’s interpretation is adorable and cheeky, it’s astounding how this baby face can sing the most vulgar lyrics and still seem like a little faun that needs to be protected at all costs. He also is in a band (The Amazing Devil) with Madeleine Hyland, so check them out if you like Batey as much as I do. Also: The Amazing Devil fit quite well into The Witcher universe, to be perfectly honest. So much so that I kinda wish that they would somehow write Hyland in as another musician who has a grudge towards Jaskier for some ridiculous thing he did. Let’s do this!!!

Review and Lets Play: Metamorphosis by Ovid Works is a fantastic puzzle game

Inspired by the works of Franz Kafka, Ovid Works’ “Metamorphosis” lets you play as Gregor Samsa, salesman turned bug who – in contrast to his literary counterpart – is not waiting for fate but rather takes it in his own … erm … feelers? Anyways, as a bug, we traverse through big rooms, hidden backdoors and magical bug cities. To turn ourselves back, we have to find the mysterious tower organization and also help our best friend Josef who is basically going through the absurdities of Kafka’s “The Trial”.

Game Review

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Horror movie list: Science and the other side = intense terror

I LOVE possession stories in books as well as in horror movies, especially those that dabble with science because obviously in real life, most if not all cases of possession can be explained by modern science, especially psychology but in fiction, it can always be mixed up with a “but is it really just in your mind?” (cue Twilight Zone-music).

So, for the following list, I tried to put together a list of movies about possessions that are tackled as scientific phenomenons, manipulations that only need to be uncovered or other quite natural explanations. Of course, they all go awry because a fake exorcism is just super sad and depressing and reminds you of the atrocities of the catholic church but a real exorcism at least has some spoopy demon faces.

It’s one of my favourite sub-genres of horror, so if you have recommendations, I will be very happy to receive them in the comments.

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boygenius EP – Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus being wonderful

On my recent binge-watch of The Walking Dead, I stumbled upon a very lovely scene with a beautiful song and immediately had to look it up. The Walking Dead doesn’t have many songs on its show but those it has, are usually well placed and this one was no exception.

 

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Favorite Song: Shamir “Running” – don’t lose yourself for other people

It’s been a while since I fell in love with a breezy pop song but here it is and it’s a beauty and it’s sad, like the best Robyn/SIA-dance bop, I love it!

Apart from being a gorgeous song to sway on the dancefloor, eyes half closed, arms stretched into the air, “Running” is also about all the compromises we make to be with and around others and how that can hurt us. According to newsbreak.com, Shamir wrote the song about a toxic group of friends and how it affected his mental health to be around cis-people who drained Shamir with the pressure of accommodating them (Shamir is non-binary but according to an older tweet prefers “he/him” over “they” which is why I use he/him in this review, I gladly change it, though, if Shamir has changed his preferences) .

I think even though we are moving further along when it comes to not just accepting but respecting people who are not conforming to our weird outdated societal rules and gender “norms” but it’s still incredibly difficult to navigate through daily life if you are not white, cis and heterosexual because micro-aggressions are a bitch and all those prejudices are so ingrained that even people who want to do better still manage to say and do hurtful things.

So this is a beautiful reminder how exhausting it can be, to feel like you have to conform even though it kills you inside.

By the way, while we’re at it, how amazing is Shamir’s song “Hell”? It’s like a gorgeous sad 80s garage romance trapped in a dream, I am in LOVE!

Favorite Song: Tunde Olaniran ‘Namesake’ is too powerful

With more than 10 years under its belt, this blog sometimes manages to surprise me with a “how the heck did I not write about this artist yet?” and discovering that I had missed Tunde Olaniran, even though their banger ‘Namesake’ blew me right out of the hemisphere when I first heard it years ago, was one of those cases. Damn, that’s a long sentence for saying: let’s right that wrong.

 

 

Ok, so first of all, ‘Namesake’ is the kind of self-acceptance hymn that takes autobiographical themes from the artist and spreads them out to the listeners reality, creating a way to relate and to let the song be bigger in its meaning than the initial interpretation suggests. Also, from its production to the vocals to the overall journey this song takes you on, this is a bop if I’ve ever seen one but the kind that pushes you from behind, makes you stand a little taller, feel a little bit cooler and move just a little smoother. It’s the kind of song that destroys the dancefloor.

 

Second, Olaniran is the kind of artist who does every genre and somewhat is beyond genre, the kind of joyful surprise of pop music that has a bite to it and likes to take turns. Their music is just a big bag full of fun surprises and honestly, I was thrown when I read that they come from Flint, Michigan because “Namesake” alone has such a strong British vibe (and that’s a compliment).

 

Also, Tunde’s most recent song “Jean Grey” is absolutely brilliant because it starts vocally like the most gorgeous ballad but also has the lyrics “Purely psionic bitch” and it’s a song about overcoming past wounds but it’s also a nerdy ode to one of the most controversial of X-People (I am not disrespecting Jean Grey by calling her an X-Men, what is this?). Look, if geeky pop music can be this cool all the time, please.