"Are You Good?" by Abz WinterReview
Out today is the latest Abz Winter single: "Are You Good?" is the question it poses.
One of the (many) things I love & admire about Abz is her relentless seeking to move forwards with her music. Therefore, when I suggested that her last release "Judgemental" might be her best (and that as you know is the type of judgement which I use very sparingly indeed), I should have predicted that she herself would say much the same about its successor.
I'm not surprised at the direction & trajectory she's taking: working with her new band (George Crump, Sophie Westover & Charlie Rainey), although they've not yet appeared on a recording has so blatantly driven on her onwards in the way she almost certainly wanted to go anyway.
Abz would not be regarded by so many people as possibly the leading chanteuse of her generation within the local scene were it not for her many admirable attributes: that ceaseless forward movement in her artistry (including the courage to make paradigm shifts), the excellence of the material she creates for herself and the high levels of taste and quality management she applies to her own performances: having been blessed with natural vocal gifts, she uses them with discretion and subtlety. Above all Abz brings heart to her music, whether that's expressed in her good humour or her caring for others: or usually both. Though she is working hard for a deserved career in music, what she is making is not cynical demographic-targeted product but music aimed at hearts. It's impossible not to like her & what she does.
And so, having only yesterday noted that not only are top drawer punk bands like Septic and the Tanks or Gutter Puppy exploding all over the place but decidedly previously non-punk artists like Rebecca Mileham or Jack Blackman are heading in that direction with very recent releases. And that's without mentioning Concrete Fun House nor Stegosaurus Sex Party nor YNES who's been travelling that road even longer. To be honest the no-nonsense "call it as I see it" approach of Abz plus the potential of her voice makes the "Pop/Rock/Punk" (her self-description) world a natural fit: she also views it as "breathing new life" into her previous stylings.
"Are You Good?" sits up there with the Blondie classic "Rip Her To Shreds" in terms of its target & language used, so over to the artist herself: "you know when you see your ex with someone new for the first time, you get that horrible feeling deep down in your gut like someone has just punched you, well I got that twice over when I saw his new girl on Insta, the total opposite to me ‘Blonde hair blue eyes' - ‘a Cara Delevingne' even though he swore I was everything he was looking for in a girl"….."Small brain, fit face, living at your mum's place, immature wanna-be sports star…….These words make me feel giddy and back in control of my emotions, I know I should have got over it years ago but… nah".
And with her powerhouse band (with whom she was performing at the Dome in London last night as part of the AMEX Gold Unsigned event), she can deliver on those words and producer Imad Salhi (who helped Abz write the song along with Kristina Sundstrom) helps her realise the verve and panache of the composition. Tight as they are, the aim of trying to celebrate "youthful chaos" is met as well.
What's great too to hear is how much fun she had making it: and I think that comes across well in what you hear & again elevate "Are You Good?" far above the production-line humour-free releases one hears all to frequently. I accept that parts of the music industry rely on formulae and over-established production methods which nonetheless sell barrel loads to people who respond both to the name of the artist and to getting another slice of the same pie they enjoyed before. However I think Abz is sidestepping that and going for the sort of audience that this magazine engages with: ones who instinctively prefer truth over artifice & those who warm to artists who pour genuine love into what they do.
Hopefully this will take her far: as she deserves to. And I'll have to stop calling her songs her "best ever" as frankly that's becoming implicit in the reviews of each successive release.