Song of the Week -River by Leon Bridges

Before you read any further, hit play, turn this up really loud, close your eyes and listen.

Leon Bridges is this years king of soul music and this song is the ultimate ballad to lose yourself in.

River is immediately captivating. Right from the first line you get the feeling this is building to something big as Bridges voice dominates over a gentle tambourine beat and gentle guitar strum. This quiet backing doesn’t change and it doesn’t need to because Bridges vocals carry the song and they need no help in this modern take on gospel music.

It’s not long before the first chills down your spine surface as he is backed by a choir which gives extra oomph to the track. The song got an incredible power in its lyrics and the way it’s performed.

“In my darkness I remember
Momma’s words reoccur to me
Surrender to the good Lord
And he’ll wipe your slate clean”

Leon Bridges is a soul singer from Fort Worth, Texas and he’s had a great year with his debut studio album Coming Home. The title track was made famous by a widespread Apple television advertisement and he’s quickly picked up a loyal following. This is an album worth spending some time with and River is the ultimate closing song.

For any interested Aucklanders – Leon Bridges plays the St James Theatre on January 9th. Get along, I would if I could!

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Song of the Week – Neptune

Neptune – Terrible Sons

This last week I’ve been a happy girl. I’ve been impatiently waiting for some new material from the wonderful Kiwi star LA Mitchell for a while now. Granted, Neptune might not be quite the same powerhouse soul-pop I’m used to from LA (aka Lauren Barus) but this offering from side-project Terrible Sons, is just as spine-tingling, albeit in a different way.

Terrible Sons is the moniker for Lauren and her husband, Matt Barus. Of course these two aren’t newbies on the New Zealand music scene, the pair are both part of rock-band Dukes and each have stellar reputations. This is the first track from their soon-to-be-released album which brings together a bunch of songs telling the tales of life in Christchurch after earthquakes destroyed much of the city.

Neptune is a mellow offering which resonates with me. I’m certain this is due to the lovely contrast in the voices of Lauren and Matt. I’m used to hearing Lauren’s voice booming in her solo work, I love that style of hers, but this I love too. Neptune showcases a different side to her which is just as compelling, even if it’s not in such an attention grabbing manner. Her vocals take on an ethereal quality as they float alongside Matt’s silky and soothing accompaniment.

The delicate song is carried by a gentle acoustic melody which is brought alive in the chorus with the introduction of a chilling violin. With this, Neptune ebbs and flows in tempo and volume, creating a melancholic magic much like the beautiful ocean scenes depicted in the video that goes with it.

You also can’t go past the stunning lyrics in Neptune. Lauren and Matt Barus are poets as well as multi-talented musicians:

“black is the storm, ill-tempered and too hard to please”

“pain is so sharp, sharp as a lover can be”

If you like the works of Sean Carey and RY X, you’ll love Terrible Sons. Neptune has a similar tone to their works and is the perfect track for a bout of easy but compelling listening. I’m now eagerly awaiting the arrival of the duo’s new album.

Song of the Week – Glory

Common and John Legend stand together during their 2015 Grammy's performance
Common and John Legend stand together during their 2015 Grammy’s performance

Glory – John Legend and Common

Since watching the Grammy’s on Monday I can’t stop thinking about and listening to one song – Glory by John Legend and Common.

The rap and soul combination track was written for the film Selma and documents the struggle for black civil rights in the past and still today. It’s tells a powerful tale of tragedy, bravery and revolution. It is one of the most chilling songs I have heard in a long time, not just because of it’s topic but because it’s written, produced and performed beautifully. I’m not at all surprised the song has picked up a nomination for the Academy Awards for Best Original Song and already won the same award in the Golden Globes.

It’s magic was reinforced for me when I watched Legend and Common perform it as the closing act of the Grammy Awards. What an incredible show they put on. Legend’s rousing piano playing forms the basis of the song, that alone is hair-raising. Add to the mix his faultless vocals and he’s electrifying. Legend has to be one of the best soul artists we have ever seen and the words and melody he has written for Glory emphasises that more than ever.

I’ve always found Legend’s live performances remarkable, but this one was that much more special because of Common’s contribution. Firstly I have to say this man has struck gold with his lyrics. Each time I listen to them I discover another reference to an incredible story in the fight for black civil rights in America. He talks not only of the Selma to Montgomery voting rights march the film is based on but about other struggles. My favourite line makes reference to an historical leader in the civil rights fight before flipping to an example of the stereotypes people are still working to change today in US towns like Ferguson:

“Truant livin’ livin’ in us, resistance is us
That’s why Rosa sat on the bus
That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up
When it go down we woman and man up”

It gets better yet, forming a backdrop behind the two artists is a choir of gospel singers. We all know how effective a gospel choir can be but I find today they’re often overused in songs without enough meaning behind them. This obviously is not the case in Glory. The chorus completes what is already a brilliant track by adding a sense of power as it represents the faith seen in the stories told in the song.

At the end of their Grammy’s performance the pair walked from their microphones to stand together side by side. They stood still staunchly in a haunting display of pride. It was such powerful symbolism. Every time I listen to the song now I picture this moment and Glory once again takes on new meaning. What a phenomenal song.