ALBUM REVIEW:Amanda Mair “Amanda Mair”

Amanda Mair has an unfair advantage. She is a teenage popstar from Sweden, two distinct advantages that set her apart from the crowd. Sweden has produced everyone from ABBA through to the A*Teens, Robyn through to Loreen – all acts who have used pop to conquer the world and it’s dancefloors. Throw into the mix her tender years and popstar good looks, qualities which saw Tiffany, JT, Britney and Christina to the top, and initial success is  inevitable. However, Amanda Mair manages to supersede both these advantages in one foul swoop on her eponymous debut.

Amanda Mair may be Swedish and a teenager but her album is much more aligned to the work of Kate Bush than it is to Louise. Mair boasts a vocal that fuses Stevie Nicks and Kate Bush in one effortless breath, which lifts her well constructed, radio friendly ditties into a divine territory.

Kicking off proceedings with the Orient inspired “Said And Done” is an inspired move. Sweeping instrumentation compliments Mair’s delicate vocal and “Said And Done” sets the bar high, a bar which Mair constantly surpasses. Single “Doubt” follows, perhaps encompassing exactly what the album stands for. A haunting display of pretty vocals and no punches pulled instrumentation makes Mair a hypnotic affair.

With no skip ahead moment, it could be said that Mair’s debut is the epitome of the pop record. With a diversity in her sonic approach, each song feels like it would suffer without her presence. While there are no lowlights, there are certainly highlights. The piano-centric “House” gets the spine tingling, while the poppier “Sense” oozes the innocent charm of Eurovision winner Lena-which is no bad thing. However it is the stripped back “Skinnarviksberget” really showcases Mair’s vocal capabilities, and can only be described as lush.

Amanda Mair is so much more than a pop puppet. She is the epitome of what pop can be. Her is an honest, open affair that uses no trickery or foolery to enhance the experience. If there is any justice in the world, Amanda Mair will be rewarded for her refreshing approach.

Rating 5/5
Reviewer:Jeremy Williams

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The Kaje’s Top 20 Singles 2011!!!!

The charts have been inundated with stellar singles this year, so rather than waste time making small talk about tracks, we have decided to simply let the music do the talking this time around – no need for us to justify our selections. So here goes our 20-1 countdown…

20.  Jess Hall Band – Play Shy

19. Cosmo Jarvis – Gay Pirates

18. Demi Lovato – Skyscraper

17. Bright Light Bright Light – Disco Moment

16. Radio Star – A Common Tale

15. Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris – We Found Love

14. Nicola Roberts – Beat Of My Drum

13. Katy Perry – Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)

12. Ed Sheeran – Lego House

11. Boy In A Box -Glitter, Gold, Ruin

10. Owl Eyes – Raiders 

9. Rebecca Ferguson – Nothing’s Real But Love

8. Kal Lavelle – The Ocean

7. Agnes Obel – Brother Sparrow

6. Gotye ft. Kimbra – Somebody That I Used To Know

5. Wynter Gordon – Buy My Love

4. The Good Natured – Skeleton

3. Britney Spears – Till The World Ends

2. Lana Del Rey – Video Games

1. Adele – Someone Like You

The Kaje’s Top 20 Albums 2011!!!!

2011 has been an eventful year in music. While it could be argued that the female soloist has continued to battle against the folk-pop contingency for chart domination, here at The Kaje we have been more than a little blown away by the sheer diversity of the tracks hitting the airwaves.

While we initially intended to compile an album Top 10, we felt there were far too many notable releases missing from our list so have pushed the boat out a little further, but still somehow we didn’t have room for The Kaje favourites Washington, The Grates, The Wanted and Ed Sheeran…

Though we could sweet talk about those who narrowly missed out, we would rather just head straight to our 20-1 countdown..

20. Bonjah – Go Go Chaos

2009’s “Until Dawn” put Bonjah on the musical map when it saw the quintet nominated in the Best Album category at both the Apra and Air Awards.  While they may not have walked away with the prize they so deserved, the boys wasted little time in recording this blindingly brilliant sophomore record.

19. Britney Spears – Femme Fatale

Britney is back and better than ever. With killer dub beats and ‘I am what I am’ attitude, Britney wasted no time in showing more recent pop princesses Lady Gaga and Jessie J that she is far from ready to give up her crown.. Here at The Kaje we are more than happy for Britney to rule the airwaves!

18. Hanson – Shout It Out

Hanson have been written off by many as a one-hit wonder. Though ‘MMMBop’ is without doubt their biggest chart hit to date, the Tulsa based trio have to their name an impressive catalogue of Blues and Soul influenced records. However, 2011 saw Hanson return to the pop domain which saw them hit the top spot some 15 years ago and boy can they still make those booties shake!

17. Darren Hayes – Secret Codes & Battleships

Former Savage Garden frontman Darren Hayes may have confused his loyal fan base slightly with his more experimental 2007 release ‘This Delicate Thing We’ve Made’, prompting a break from his solo career. Having spent time writing for an array of other acts, Hayes noted that he was simultaneously compiling a set of songs for a solo return. The result is the sublime “Secret Codes & Battleships”. The perfect fusion of Savage Garden-esque questioning ballads and Darren Hayes experimentation, “Secret Codes & Battleships” is Hayes’ best release to date.

16. Melanie C – The Sea

Former Sporty Spice Melanie C is the most successful solo spice. Her debut album still tops the poll of solo records from one of the world’s biggest girl bands ever. Yet despite consistently strong releases, Melanie C’s albums have failed to capture the public imagination in the same way. Post 2007’s “This Time”, Chisholm headed to the West End and it seemed like the solo dream was over. But Chisholm was simply biding her time and her 2011 comeback record “The Sea” warrants celebrating.

15. Ane Brun – It All Starts With One

Ane Brun decided to postpone her solo career when Peter Gabriel asked her to be his backing singer on tour. While she was keen to follow-up 2008’s “Changing Of The Seasons”, she felt uninspired and needed time to collect her thoughts. The time off has clearly worked wonders as 2011 saw her return with this deliciously delicate collection.

14.  Kelly Rowland – Here I Am

Kelly Rowland’s solo career has been somewhat tumultuous. While her 2002 debut album “Simply Deep” was both a commercial and critical success, her 2007 follow-up “Ms. Kelly” was largely overlooked. With Rowland written off by many, she focussed her energies on profile sustaining guest vocals while working hard on ensuring her third release “Here I Am” was able to hit the mark. And boy, it does far more than just that…

13. Frankie & The Heartstrings – Hunger

Sunderland’s Frankie & The Heartstrings have spent the past couple of years building up a reputation on the live circuit. With the distinctive on stage presence proving increasingly popular, the boys finally bit the bullet and unleashed their irrepressible debut album “Hunger” at the start of 2011. With their riotous rawk perfectly captured in album’s 10 tracks, this record is just brief appetite warmer for a band that may just be Britain’s biggest export in years to come.

12. Clare Maguire – Light After Dark

Birmingham’s Clare Maguire was selected by the BBC as one of the acts to watch in 2011. The honour is seemingly a curse, with the pressure piled up the selected acts to deliver commercially and critically. The praise lauded prematurely upon Clare Maguire saw many a critic slam her album upon release somewhat unfairly. With one of the most powerful and distinctive vocals of 2011, “Light After Dark” reveals more of its beauty with each listen. This may be a slow burner, but there is nothing wrong with a lack of radio friendly immediacy.

11. Adele – 21

By rights “21” should be at number 1 on our list. Londoner Adele is without any question the real star of 2011, however, with the record released at the start of the year, here at The Kaje its sheer over exposure has caused us to put it to the back of our shelf for a while. Though it may have very temporarily lost its sheen, there is no denying the innate artistry in Adele’s heartbreak. Seemingly effortlessly Adele manages to capture the  devastating beauty of break-up blues. Magically chilblain inducing.

1o. Kami Thompson – Love Lies

The daughter of folk legends Richard and Linda Thompson has spent most her adult years running away from the inevitable – that she is a musician to the core. Having tried an array of careers, Thompson finally faced up to her genetic disposition and set about work on her own material, a move which the whole world will soon be thankful for. “Love Lies” is at times tender at others playful debut effort, but its real beauty lies not in its diversity but the charm of its dexterous vocalist.

9. Charlie Simpson – Young Pilgrim

Charlie Simpson left boy band Busted while they were going from commercial strength to strength. There was little the pop trio could do wrong, but Simpson felt he was being disloyal to his musical roots and instead launched the rock heavy Fightstar. The move built his credibility and proved his diversity, therefore few eyebrows were raised when Simpson took his baby steps to solo success with 2010’s “When We Were Lions” EP. Rather than rushing a record, Simpson bided his time as he crafted his debut album “Young Pilgrim”, a wise move, as it supersedes all his other musical outings to date.

8. Oh Mercy – Great Barrier Grief

2011 marked the return of Oh Mercy minus founding member Thom Savage. However, the subtle charm of frontman Alexander Gow ensured that “Great Barrier Grief” topped 2009’s “Privileged Woes”. Sincere, sturdy, clean-cut and minimalist, “Great Barrier Grief” is a romantically charged effort.

7. Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Make A Scene

Sophie Ellis-Bextor has always been a star in our eyes. With Theaudience’s only record to date still a regular feature on our stereo, we simply cannot get enough of Janet Ellis’ stunning daughter. With Ellis-Bextor having focussed her attentions on motherhood in recent years, “Make A Scene” packs a sophisticated punch and builds on Ellis-Bextor’s distinct sound.

6. Will Young – Echoes

Will Young has come so far from his Pop Idol days that he is barely recognisable from his early recordings. Having taken time to return to tread the boards, Will Young’s “Echoes” is an understated Richard X soulful dance influenced effort that easily walks over his past efforts. Will Young is back and better than ever.

5. Kimbra – Vows

Kiwi Kimbra may be best known globally for her Gotye collaboration “Somebody That I Used To Know”, but her debut album “Vows” shows that she can more than hold her own away from an established partner. Playfully innovative, Kimbra is an artist who understands how to create no-nonsense pop music that oozes credibility.

4. Nicola Roberts – Cinderella’s Eyes

Nicola Roberts is not Cheryl Cole, nor does she want to be. While Cole may have dominated the post Girls Aloud solo output with her conventional auto-tuned pop slices, Roberts has relished in her lesser profile allowing her creative freedom. Far from a typical pop record, Roberts has pushed the boundaries and the raised the bar with this humour filled, synth pop treat.

3. Little Comets – In Search Of Elusive Comets

Little Comets should be one of the biggest things since sliced bread. Having more than proved their ingenuity on stage, the Newcastle troupe came the attention of Columbia Records way back in 2009. They hit the studio and crafted what they felt best represented their appeal, to find that the big label bosses wanted them to be something they weren’t. Rather than sell their soul for success, the lads stood their ground and finally released the ingeniously crafted “In Search Of Elusive Comets” at the turn of 2011.

2. Georgia Fair – All Through Winter

School pals Jordan Wilson and Ben Riley have never believed in rush releases. Though they have been playing together since their early teens, the duo never felt they had quite the right set of songs to record a full length record. Rather than force their creativity, the focussed on honing their skills on the live circuit and releasing a set of stellar EPs. With their profile steadily rising, the pair finally bit the bullet and headed Stateside to work with Band of Horses’ Bill Reynolds. The result is a no-nonsense,vocally centred record that ensures Georgia Fair are at the forefront of the indie-folk movement.

1. Dionne Bromfield – Good For The Soul

Dionne Bromfield first came to public attention as the child prodigy God-daughter of the much-missed super talent Amy Winehouse, but she grown into an artist who is so much more than a ‘by-association’ act. “Good For The Soul” leaves you breathless. Bromfield boasts a classic soul vocal and it is clear she has learnt more than a trick or two from Winehouse.With 60 and 70s soul vocals applied to contemporary urban pop, Bromfield ensures she is a step ahead of the pack. Aged just 15, Bromfield is still at the beginner’s block career wise, but “Good For The Soul” is light years ahead of many artists twice her age.

WIN!!!! Many of our Top 20 Album acts have been kind enough to donate signed copies of their releases for a big bumper prize pack! To get your hands one of the mix bags then simply tell us the title of Dionne Bromfield’s debut album… Answers by email to jeremy@the-kaje.com by January 15.

LIVE REVIEW: Britney Spears, LG Arena (Birmingham), 30/10/2011

Bleach blonde Barbie doll Britney meets Christina duo Desiree and Paris have the difficult task of warming up an almost empty LG Arena for tonight’s big act. It is not their fault, the ticket states an 8pm start and only those, who like me, stressed about potential crowd problems, arrive early enough to see the extremely enthusiastic duo. There is nothing wrong with the poptastic partners, whose frenetic approach appears wholehearted to its manufactured core. Whether the pair will go on to set the musical world alight is yet to be seen, but there is no denying their vocal prowess or their go get it attitude.

While Desiree and Paris made the most of a difficult situation, Disney hunk Joe Jonas struggles despite the screams that greet his very presence. Clearly wanting to emulate Justin Timberlake, Jonas lacks the aforementioned’s panache even if he has the vocal dexterity to carry him through. Jonas is sadly forgettable and as the screams wane, he resorts to flexing his muscles to win over the fluttering teenage hearts.

After a half an hour break, Britney bursts onto the stage to the beat of recent single “Hold It Against Me”. The pounding pulse sets the tone for the first half of the ‘Femme Fatale’-heavy set and even Britney herself seems to be struggling to have a good time. With barely a word uttered, Britney takes herself through the motions, with the whole event seeming mechanical and methodical. While “Gimme More” gets the crowds suddenly screaming for more, it is the “Hit Me Baby (One More Time)/S&M” remix that gets the crowd roaring and Britney to relax.

Once in her comfort zone, Britney excels. Gone are the stiff movements and in their place, a bold, confident performer appears centre stage. The crowd finally find their feet as Britney closes her initial set with the addictive “Womaniser”, and they rise once again as Britney returns for an encore of “Toxic” and “Till The World Ends”.

With the first half wasted and unwanted by both performer and audience, it is a shame Britney did not focus more on the hits the hardy fans craved. That being said, the beaming audience chanting “Womaniser” as they walked out of the Arena, were far from disappointed. And as for this hardened fan – well, I concede – I am, and no doubt always will be – Team Britney.

Reviewer: Jeremy Williams
Rating: 3/5 

FORGOTTEN GEM: Delta Goodrem “Innocent Eyes”

2003 was in many respects one the prime years of the noughties for music. Not only did it see the mainstream launch of The Black Eyes Peas with their first effort containing a contribution from former child star Stacey “Fergie” Ferguson, but it also marked the year that finally saw the eagerly anticipated and much awaited debut album from Destiny’s Child starlet Beyoncé. Meanwhile, Britney was definitely “In The Zone” as she released her fourth album.

But hidden amidst the American chart domination stood an honest and discreet Australian talent. Having come to public attention in 2002 as the coy and aspiring singer Nina Tucker in “Neighbours”, by 2003 Delta Goodrem had escaped her fictional alter ego and became a singer in her own right.

“Broke the mould musically, in a period of production, Goodrem’s
simplistic songcraft stood out.”

Her debut album “Innocent Eyes” was released in late March 2003 and although it only peaked at number 3 in the UK, I feel this album is one that deserved a lot more recognition. There are several factors that may have caused the lack of interest in Goodrem as a credible singer/songwriter. However, the most obvious is the fact that she was just the latest in a long line of soap stars to turn pop star. If this were to be the sole reason that deterred many people from giving her album a chance, then I believe it is these people who truly missed out on a selection of sublime music.

The album opens with “Born To Try” which was the song used by her alter ego to launch a parallel career in the soap (which saw Nina leaving Ramsay Street to pursue her fledgling success) and as this song entered the real world, the lyrics rang true for a generation seeking success. “Born To Try” also broke the mould musically, in a period of production, Goodrem’s simplistic songcraft stood out.

“Born To Try” was not alone in its pop perfection. As “Innocent Eyes” moves effortlessly from one song to the next, Goodrem is consistent in her catchy and sometimes haunting melodies which contrast with her soft and elegant voice, best demonstrated on the album’s title track “Innocent Eyes”. Goodrem’s composition shows how a pop ballad should be written. But it is her distinct vocal adding an extra depth which makes this the real stand out track on the album.

“Catchy and sometimes haunting melodies which contrast with
her soft and elegant voice”

As well as proving her vocal ability, “Innocent Eyes” is a showcase of her more than impressive writing abilities. Though the album as a whole in a stunning selection, some real gems are there to be uncovered; “In My Own Time” and “Will You Fall For Me” really show an honest and vulnerable side of Goodrem, a quality that is rarely seen in an artist’s debut album.

Goodrem did not work alone and “Innocent Eyes” boasts some impressive collaborations, With Gary Barlow and Kara DioGuardi both on board, it is no surprise that this mid tempo album is full of not only catchy hooks and beats, but has the lyrics to compliment them too.

“An honest and vulnerable side of Goodrem, a quality that is
rarely seen in an artist’s debut album.”

“Innocent Eyes” definitely takes us on a journey from its subtle and understated opening ballads, which sweep and gradually increase to mid tempo pop songs.. And that’s exactly what this album is, a real pop album. When listening to the album, I never question its integrity. It is presented in such a firm and honest way that what you see is what you get. It is rare to find a solid pop album that creates this security. Pop music always feels the need to be new, modern and at the risk of sounding like Simon Cowell, current. As a result, the pop scene is constantly changing, leaving the listener little time to capture a moment before moving on to the next. “Innocent Eyes” is a treat that is not afraid of staying still. I do not mean that its boring and stagnant but it really has taken the time to breathe and grow. I really feel it explores the aural setting it belongs to. Out of this bravery comes a sincere work from Goodrem.

Not only do we enjoy the integrity of the lyrics and cleverly composed songs, but for me the real star of the album is Goodrem’s vocal quality. At the time she was one of the few pop singers brave enough to sing live on television, which just proved that she wasn’t just a studio artist but a live artist too. Never shying away, Goodrem’s vocal range is constantly explored throughout the album, starting with a low and almost spoken start to the album and ending in high melodical bliss with “Will You Fall For Me”, making “Innocent Eyes” an album that really should not be forgotten.

Words: Christopher Hall

VIDEO: Safura “Drip Drop”

You may well think we at The Kaje are slightly Eurovision obsessed after this post – but I was listening to music online at random and stumbled accross this little ditty from Azerbaijan’s Safura. Now, I bet that had this not been a Eurovision entrant, thus facing ridicule by default. However, Safura has more to her than meets the eye and with no-one properly filling the Britney void – I propose Safura steps forward and shows us all how pop should be done!

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