JustSO release debut album

‘All music is escapism for me, but I like the way that, on a good night, that sense of escapism can be shared’ – Jamie xx

One of the best parts of my job is being able to talk passionately about things I love and discovering new music has always been a great love of mine. Writing this blog has given me many amazing opportunities, and none more amazing than being offered the opportunity to work as press officer for local North East rock band The Longsands after they read a review I wrote of one of their gigs. It helped that I was mates with them at school of course; having an already established relationship made the job so much easier and it was a dream come true for me.

Guitarist from The Longsands Stan had always had a side project in JustSO, a more laid back acoustic offering with vocalist Olivia Morley which he managed concurrently with The Longsands but when the boys decided to call it a day in 2017, Stan moved forward with JustSO and started recording their own material rather than just relying on a popular wedding band repertoire.

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They’ve now just released their first self titled album full of original material and although it couldn’t be more different from The Longsands back catalogue, on just first listen it sounds like a perfect laid back pop album.

The change in direction (for Stan at least) is a refreshing change of pace and his distinctive voice shines through as he shares 50% of the vocals. As soon I heard his guitar kick in I instantly thought ‘there’s Stan’. His voice melts like butter with Olivia’s who although may vocally lack the power of Beyonce or Adele, she certainly more than makes up for it in soul and reminds me of some of my favourite female singers from the 90s like Paula Cole and Jewel.

The album is track after track of polished classy radio friendly hits with a distinct modern americana vibe. Stand out track from me is Stay, which could have been pulled straight off the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack and believe me when I say I hold the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack in very high esteem!

History hasn’t been too kind to male/female bands however I think JustSO manage to pull off the musical credibility of Fleetwood Mac (without being too mumsy) and the energy of The Beautiful South (without being a bit rubbish). I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you heard them on radio 2 in the very near future!

Download the album from amazon and find out more about the band on their Facebook page.

Review: Sway – Deliverance

Music washes away the dust of every day life’ – Art Blakey

I don’t tend to buy full albums all that much these days. It’s not like I listen to physical CDs anymore (apart from in the car) and technology has made it so much easier to download the single tracks you like rather than having to wade through a whole load of album tracks to find what you like. Every couple of years though hubby and I go off on a sun holiday to Greece where we adopt a routine of bed-sunlounger-pub for two weeks. It’s on these holidays that I catch up on all the albums I’ve been meaning to give a listen but haven’t gotten round to yet.

It’s also not often that you listen to an album and are genuinely blown away, and you wonder how you ever survived without it in your life (back in 2012 it was Camp by Childish Gambino which has since made it into my top 10 albums of all time). So good is Deliverance by UK grime artist Sway that I’m posting this review before we’ve even gone on this year’s jaunt. I gave it a listen whilst drying my hair yesterday morning mainly just to check that it had downloaded properly and I haven’t been able to stop listening since.

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I’ve never been a massive fan of grime to be honest. I like most of what Dizzee Rascal’s put out recently, but that’s more mainstream. I’m sure he has albums and albums worth of stuff that wouldn’t be to my taste at all (I’m a pop chick after all) and Lethal Bizzle is good fun when I see or hear him interviewed, but I shamefully wouldn’t be able to name any of his songs. I have however been aware of a few things Sway has done in the past. His song Saturday Night Hustle with Lemar from 2008 was excellent and I’ve written before about how much I love Level Up which was released in 2012 and has been on my running playlist ever since. I’ve followed the build-up to the release of his latest full album ‘Deliverance’ and have seen the good reviews surrounding it (Sway himself is also very hands on with corresponding with fans on Twitter which always scores points with me) so I thought it about time I have it a listen.

Here’s what I thought:

Deliverance Song (Featuring Daniel De Bourg)

Do not underestimate how clever this man is. I listen to a lot of mainstream rap and hip hop and I’ve never heard a song delivered in this way, literally spelling out the story of the song. The way he  replaces letters here and there to form new words and new rhymes is outstanding and must have taken ages to write (well, it would for me at least anyway).  A very impressive and promising start to the album.

Testimony (Featuring Tiggs Da Author)

One thing I love most about Sway and acts like him as they don’t try to sound American, they embrace their English accent and just sound so British. This helps the album start off with a punch which it’s strong African beats in the hook, it’s more of a moody ballad that would be well placed on the soundtrack of a Spike Lee film.

Stream It (Featuring Mista Silva)

Venturing more into grime territory here which isn’t within my music comfort zone I do admit although the chantable chorus makes it difficult for this not to get stuck in your head. Much respect for working music identification app Shazam into the lyrics as well (the song is about the ever changing music industry though, so it works!)

Snap Shot (Featuring Sam Garrett)

Taking a look at everyone’s obsession with taking pictures of everything these days (particularly selfies) and the jet set lifestyle. Sam’s vocals blend well with Sway’s laid back style and the electro dancy melody sounds reminiscent of a lot of stuff Calvin Harris is doing at the moment. Can definitely see it being released as a single.

Blow It (feat. They Call Me Raptor & Ryan Thomas)

Another stand out on the album for me, I LOVE the chorus which has a laid back bluesy Aloe Black vibe and is a total contradiction to Sway and Raptors fast flowing aggressive rapping style but it works. Sway sounding at his best on this one in particular. I love the ‘clapping’ break downs in the middle 8’s as well.

Wanna Be (Featuring Ksi)

Even though there’s mishmash drum beats with catchy ‘hey’ chants and  aggressive vocals this is about following your own path and being who you want to be. I’ve always been partial of an a capella rap breakdown where the rapper can keep rhythm even though there’s no music behind them and Sway does that perfectly in this song!

Teach Us

While I love the upbeat funkyness of the verses, I’m not mad keen on the chorus. Not sure what it is, it just grates on me a little, also the line ‘learn me everything you know’ messes with my grammatical ODC,  much as I appreciate it’s just poetic license 😉

Crier

Has great gospel and uplifting undertones, I like the almost nursery rhyme rhythm his vocals on the verse have. The lyrics fit with the rest of the theme of the album and are very positive and inspirational. Possibly an open letter to someone (his son?) as the story reads like a modern version of Just the Two of Us by Will Smith, but a little more articulate and less cheesy!

The Sea (feat. Ms Adams & Jamie Grey)

Wow. WOW! I had no idea that Sway has been diagnosed with cancer (Hogkins Lymphoma) – clearly haven’t been reading his Wikipedia page closely enough. This song is about his diagnosis, treatment and subsequent recovery and is beautiful. For such a tough subject, it’s incredibly uplifting. One of the stand out tracks for sure!

Follow You

Another favourite of mine, and one of the most personal on the album. He talks about finding inner strength and helping yourself out of trouble; following your instincts. Sways vocals come across preachy but not in a judgmental way, in a clam church pastor kind of way. It will definitely be one a lot of people will be able to relate to!

Ain’t Going Home (feat. Mr Bigz & Tony Blaize)

Funky with a capital F.U.N. This is most like the other songs of his I love (Saturday Hustle and Level Up) the chorus is straight out of 70’s old school funk, could easily have been produced by Pharrell. Probably the most poppy on the album so naturally one of my favourites!

Reign Dance

Probably the most ‘hip hop’ lyrically on the album as he talks about preparing to reign supreme but he does it in a self assured positive way rather than trying to make himself look good by bashing other people. The catchy hook of the chorus is about coming together to dance in the rain.

Still Speedin’ (Remix) – Bonus track

This was released as as single a while ago but never hit my radar sadly. It wouldn’t be out of place on a Fast n Furious soundtrack sampling fan favourite Ride on Time. It’s the most dancey on the album and imagine it probably does really well live would do really well live, particularly at festivals or in Ibiza.

Level Up (feat. Kelsey) – Bonus track

I’ve never made a secret about how much I love this song so i’m pleased it’s been included on the album so more people get to listen to it. Sways lyrics are witty with loads of pop culture references and Kelsey’s voice gives it a great electropop edge.

I’d always been a fan of the more positive hip hop in the 80’s and 90’s like Salt n Pepa, De la Soul and Tribe Called Quest and I think this album falls well within that genre. Putting aside the fact that I think he’s so cute I just want to pinch is little cheeks, I genuinely don’t understand why he’s not on mainstream radio. The quality and production of this is as good if not better than anything Tinie (who I also love) is putting out at the moment. For a grime/hip hop artist, I’d say this falls more into the hip hop category than grime (which is fine by me!) and although it didn’t have the immediate ‘oh my god this is the best album ever’ punch that Gambino’s Camp did, after a couple of listens it’s quickly edging its way into my exclusive top 10. Sway has unique rhyming skills and a flow that reminds me of Twista back in the 90’s. The important social commentary and clever articulate lyrics appeal to my natural love of words (I’ve always been a lyric over melody girl) and the fact he’s actually rapping about real things, not just ‘money, cash, hoes’ means even this chubby blonde white girl from Newcastle can get her rhythmless groove on to it!