Jay Blanes - Fireworks

Barcelona born and raised, but now London based, Jay Blanes has unveiled his EP Fireworks two years after his debut, Found in April. Having stated that the collection sees him evolve from an artist who was finding his feet to one who is more in control of their output, Fireworks has been teased by two singles earlier this year, which have seen him garner an impressive number of streams. Can the album tilt him just a little further into the…

Shaun Escoffery - Strong Enough

Shaun Escoffery should be one of the biggest soul vocalists in the world. His rich voice is currently best associated with the West End production of The Lion King, where he has paid Mustafa for an impressive 12 years, but for even longer than that he has been releasing impressive solo material that has been rooted in Soul, but showcased his passion for Blues, Rock and R'n'B. His latest collection, Strong Enough, follows the striking 2016 release Evergreen, and proves…

A Writer's Journey: Matson Taylor

Matson Taylor grew up in Yorkshire (the flat part not the Brontë part). He comes from farming stock and spent an idyllic childhood surrounded by horses, cows, bicycles, and cheap ice-cream. His father, a York City and Halifax Town footballer, has never forgiven him for getting on the school rugby team but not getting anywhere near the school football team. Matson now lives in London, where he is a design historian and academic writing tutor at the V&A, Imperial College…

A Withering Light: Brighton Rock By Graham Greene

Much has been said about Graham Greene's 1938 novel, Brighton Rock. As with all serious novels, to the intellectual reader there are numerous themes to explore and analyse and this is where I should confess to my own limitations. I have no contextual knowledge of Brighton in the 1930s, I know nothing of gang warfare either then or now, and I have little understanding of Catholicism, or how it influenced Greene. In the introduction to the edition I read, J.M.…

The Bonds That Define Us: And The Mountains Echoed By Khaled Hosseini

I have long understood that boys and girls often prefer different reading matter. Too often, as English teachers, we would complain that there were not enough books to engage boys and no wonder we struggled to get them to read. In reality, I believe that it’s not the reading so much as the sitting down with which many teenage boys struggle. Much has, of course, been done to redress the balance: Anthony Horowitz has written the Alex Rider Series, John…

Katherine Jenkins - Cinema Paradiso

At the age of 24 Katherine Jenkins was propelled to international acclaim. Upon the launch of her debut album, Premiere, the world sat up and listened to crisp, clean tone of the Neath born Operatic vocalist. Since then she has shown that there is more to her artistry than meets the eye. From collaborations with Darcey Bussell to her recent strikingly diverse appearance on The Masked Singer, she always delivers the goods, but we always want her to return with…

Singles Of The Week: 3 July 2020

Live music has hit the headlines this week. Not necessarily for the positives. While we all crave live performance in our lives once again, with many artists turning to drive-in venues as a safe alternative, Chase Rice and Chris Janson opted to deliver concerts which didn't exercise social distancing. Without getting too political, we do side with Kelsea Ballerini and the general public response... Without wanting to dwell on the negative, we are excited to see how the drive-in concerts…

The Phone Box At The Edge Of The World – Laura Imai Messina: A Finely Modulated Meditation Upon Grief

“The telephone line won’t carry my voice. So, I let the wind do it, hence the name The Phone of the Wind”. The words of Itaru Sasaki. Wanting to speak to his recently deceased cousin, Itaru instals a telephone box in his garden, which sits at the bottom of the Mountain of the Whale and overlooks the sea off the coast of Otsuki in Japan. Twelve months later in March 2011, Otsuki is decimated by a tsunami which kills 861…

Musical Motivation: JeyB

Mexican singer/songwriter JeyB is an old school pop fan, whose own musical output has started to garner international attention. His latest single sees him team up with La Chule Ruiz to directly speak out about the ever-present homophobia and attached violence. Moved by the powerful words and delivery of the musical moment, we caught up with JeyB to find out more about the music that inspired him. We asked him what songs make him... Smile Make Me Like You by Gwen

Yorkshire Festival of Story Takes 80 Events to Digital Stage

At a time when our experiences are limited, Yorkshire Festival of Story will offer audiences the chance to use stories to escape, to gain new perspectives and to get active. Under the expert curation of guest Festival Director Joanne Harris MBE, Yorkshire Festival of Story will take place online across August 2020. With over 80 events, this diverse, immersive programme is all free. 2020 marks 10 years since Settle Stories began producing a festival in one of the most beautiful…

Musical Motivation: Harrison Storm

Over the past few years, Harrison Storm has crafted a singular style, merging classically inspired finger-picking and sophisticated lyrics with a rich and soulful vocal delivery that is both intimate and explosive. A born troubadour, Harrison traded college for busking in Melbourne. The fruits of his impromptu performances financed the 2015 debut EP, ‘Sense of Home’. The latter yielded a worldwide hit as ‘Sense of Home' generated upwards of 65 million Spotify streams and counting. Signed to Nettwerk, he unveiled…

Interview With Ruby Turner

British Jamaican R&B and soul singer is one of the greatest vocalists we have. Having recently spent a lot of time collaborating with Jools Holland, but earlier this year released one of the year's finest albums - Love Was Here. With her latest single, A Better Way, faultlessly summing up the current global situation with a hopeful overview, we caught up with Ruby to find out more. First and foremost, hello and how are you? Right now I’m basking in his glory…

A Writer's Journey: Rebecca Sullivan

Rebecca Sullivan is a twenty-two-year-old student at the National University of Ireland, studying English Literature and Geography. She is obsessed with fluffy socks and anything to do with owls, particularly in the form of candles and other odd trinkets. Even when sleeping there’s no escape from writing for Rebecca as she plans story arcs by inducing a lucid dreaming state. Today she releases her coming of age, lesbian summer camp romance novel called Night Owls and Summer Skies, so we…

Artistic Mind: Abigail McGourlay

Abigail McGourlay was in the middle of finishing her 2nd year of studying Fine Art at The University of Leeds and was working as a swimming instructor when lockdown hit. She has been furloughed from her job and has been continuing her studies from home. Inspired she created some new artwork, and has now found herself shortlisted for The Arts Society’s prestigious Isolation Artwork Competition with two pieces. We caught up with her to find out a little more. Can

Interview With Danielle Bradbery

Texas born-and-raised singer/songwriter Danielle Bradbery has unveiled her socially-distant filmed music video for her empowering new single “Never Have I Ever”. Captured on a ranch in her home state with mom Gloria filling in as her glam team, the stripped-down video showcases her flirty and vulnerable sides as she gives one of her most raw performances to date. We caught up with her to find out more. Tell us about the song you have just released… When writing this song, we wanted…

Benjamin Biolay - Grand Prix

Benjamin Biolay is close to reaching the 20th anniversary of his debut album, Rose Kennedy. Since it's release he has seen his grounding in the French-language music scene really solidified, but it hasn't been without it's twists and turns. Three years on from one of his most successful albums to date, Volver, he returns with his ninth studio album, Grand Prix. Grand Prix is essentially a concept album. Written as an homage to women and cars, Grand Prix explores the life…

Turgenev’s Fathers And Sons: Nihilism’s Ineluctable Catalytic Force For Change

Referring to the novels of Ivan Turgenev in his Partial Portraits, Henry James (1843-1916) wrote, “They gave one the impression of life itself and not of an arrangement, a réchauffé of life”. Having recently extolled the virtues of Turgenev’s On The Eve (1860), I described that novel as a flawed literary gem. Fathers and Sons (1862), however, represents the apex of what James found so impressive in his friend’s writing. Eclipsing the earlier novel in terms of ideological force, psychological…

LYR - Call In The Crash Team

LYR are a trio of producer Patrick Pearson, musician Richard Walters and poet Simon Armitage. While they have just released their debut album, Call In The Crash Team, the project is one steeped in a history of working connections. Richard and Simon first collaborated in 2009 on the song Redwoods. It was at that point that the initial concept of LYR was born. LYR was to be a spoken word project but in a musical context. Needing an extra musical mind…

Tenille Townes - The Lemonade Stand

Tenille Townes is still a relatively new name on the international music scene, but the 26 year old Canadian singer/songwriter is already well established on her home turf. Having started her recording career in her teens, she received acclaim for her first two studio albums and at 17 was nominated for Female Artist of the Year at the Canadian Country Music Awards, an award which she won last year after taking a five-year hiatus from the music world after her…

Poem Of The Week: 'The Wreck' By John Haines (1924-2011)

The wreck The Church, like a wreck blown ashore from the Middle Ages battering on a shoal at Finisterre... The seams have opened, and the sea, like a luminous window falling away, flashes briefly with ikons, chalices, gold candlesticks. Angels and saints, their faces crusted with salt, draw near to the flooded railing. They try to sing – the wind, full of a wintry fervour, whips the kyries from broken spars. And the figurehead on a cross has never moved... A couch mourns in the littered shallows; Unwieldy shapes, driftwood and sea-coal, groan and struggle to their feet, survivors…

Interview With Nicola Sirkis

Nicola Sirkis is the frontman of the prolific French rock group Indochine. With 13 studio albums under their belt, they have just released the sensational Nos célébrations as the lead single from their forthcoming career celebrating collection. We caught up with Nicola to learn a little bit more about the upcoming record and to take a look back at the last 40 years of his recording career. Tell us about the upcoming celebration record… How do you feel when releasing a

Review: Beast By Chris Speck

Those who know me could tell you that I don’t like boxing, I hate bullying and am not entertained by stories about violence or horror stories with carnivorous monsters, and yet, in this age of strange enlightenment, I broadened my horizons and gave this new novel a chance. I read it in three sittings and found it compelling. I could not predict the final outcome but I found myself caring for the main character, Tony. The death of a parent is…

Singles Of The Week: 26 June 2020

As lockdown around the world finds itself in differing stages, accessibility to live music and the arts is at the forefront of many minds. While the online alternative is still thrilling, the possibility of seeing the arts in the live forum once again is very exciting. While we wait to see what happens next, we run through this week's new releases. Dannii Minogue - All I Wanna Do 2020 Rating: 5/5 Back in 1997 Dannii Minogue scored the first Top 5 UK…

Dream Wife - So When You Gonna…

Dream Wife never intended to become a much-hyped punk driven trio. The university friends started the project as just that. An art project. Yet something clicked. What was just an experiment bloomed into one of the feistiest trios the music world had witnessed in recent years. With echoes of Hole and Garbage, there was something fresh and exciting that was largely missing from the music industry. As a result their debut album was released to critical applause. Now they have…

Bruckner - Hier

The debut album, Hier, by sibling duo Bruckner has been a long time in the making. Fair enough it was written and recorded in an intensive two month period in Berlin, but it is the end result of many years of musical experimentation. With the project having started life as Jakob's acoustic surf-pop ditties, the addition of his brother Matti, who had dabbled with metal in his teenage years, into the mix saw the sound expand and grow. With the…

A Writer's Journey: Chris Regez

Swiss country music singer-songwriter and author Chris Regez has released his highly anticipated first novel ‘The Songwriter - Following The Sound Of Love.' After recording his first three albums in Nashville, Chris returned to Music City again and again. In 2017 one more trip inspired him to start writing a novel about spontaneous passion and running away to Music City to chase a dream when that dream is the only thing left. Regez opens this rare read with “Girlfriend gone.…

Interview With Betsy

Betsy is one of the UK's finest female vocalists ever. While she may only have one album under her belt, it is effortlessly one of the finest debut albums ever released. With the difficult task of following up such a faultless record, she has excelled with the two post-album singles released to date. Having just unveiled the stunning Behind Her Smile, we caught up with her to find out a little bit more. First and foremost, hello and how are you? Grateful.…

Matt Lovell - Nobody Cries Today

"Struggle follows everywhere I go", sings Matt Lovell on Trouble, the opening song to his debut album Nobody Cries Today. Wearing his heart firmly on his sleeve from the moment he introduces the record, it is clear that Nobody Cries Today is going to be very real. Written in 2016, little did he know that life was about to get more complicated than the troubles he had experienced as an openly gay man living in the southern States of the…

Review: The Man Behind Closed Doors By Maria Frankland

Maria Frankland’s second foray into domestic noir makes for a thoroughly engaging read. In an even better book than her debut, the Otley-based novelist takes a step back from her narrative, investing less emotional heart and more forensic intelligence into a story which is both affecting and effective. More impressive still, she achieves emotional distance whilst sustaining narrative balance by informing the individual protagonists with fully-functioning sensibilities. Both Paul and Michelle may feel aggrieved in different ways, and both are given…

On The Eve By Turgenev: An Allegorical Love Story And A Plea To A Nation

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand”, the opening line of William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence (1803) - one of his “prophetic works” - could be a useful way marker when approaching Turgenev. On The Eve, published in 1860 and translated into English in 1895, may be seen as a work utilising an ostensibly sentimental, if undeniably tragic, historical love story, as a thinly veiled cypher for a profoundly insightful political protest novel. The anguished soul of a…