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"Sides of Me" by Antonia Kirby

Review

After the misfortune of having the dreaded lurgy delay the anticipated & planned release of her new EP "Sides of Me", Antonia Kirby (whose "Labour of Love" appears on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Two': and it originally first came out on her last EP ‘The View From Here' in 2016), has finally felt that the moment has arrived to share it with us.

Long since recorded, perhaps fortunately for any sense of career momentum, three of the EP songs ("Fool",  "Icarus" & "Fool (Funk)") have already been shared in the form of singles with the public (and indeed reviewed in "Hot Music Live" between December last year & this May).

The two versions of "Fool" smartly bookend the EP & I think the order of ballad to open & funkier version to close is very much the right one.

Since my thoughts on those tracks can be found in the respective reviews, I'll turn my attention here towards the songs on the record not previously released, namely "Sweet Serotonin" & "Barricade".

The former follows on effectively from "Fool" on the EP (all the tracks bar the funky finale are stripped back single instrument & vocal) and is a real revelation: the sound is Latin & the lyric one of her best to date: in fact it may just have shoved its way to the top of my personal list of favourites of Antonia's work. I do hope that it gets the airplay it deserves. It shares with the magnificent "Summer" of Charlotte Hatherley the clever analogy of using that particular chemical to describe a beneficial state of mind & although I presume a release earlier in 2020 might as in that case have linked well to the summer season, perhaps it has a new & more subtle resonance in late September: it's now we particularly need serotonin especially when it's less plentiful & we have mental health challenges ahead of us.

"Barricade" has a more of a sombre tone (though still sung with her characteristic lightness of touch) and the guitar drives along more insistently in protest song style, although I'm not sure she is necessarily protesting, just testifying. Sitting next to the equally reflective "Icarus" on the record, it provides a more introspective element in the collection, to which the more party style release of the closer "Fool (Funk)" contrasts well & helps carry us on a short emotional journey through the five tracks.

 

Again I salute the production of Antonia's long term collaborator Nick Dransfield which frankly is pristine and credit too to Tom Haines who plays on & co-composed some tracks and supported her throughout.

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"Icarus" by Antonia Kirby

Review

Today I'd like to share with you the latest single (out today) by Antonia Kirby whose"Labour of Love" appears on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Two'.

After her  last diptych of singles in December:  "Fool" and "Fool (Funk)"  (which of course we covered in the magazine), "Icarus" returns to the more spare acoustic style of Antonia's  ‘The View From Here' EP from four years ago albeit with its own often jaunty air which counterpoints the message in the words.

It is a reflective piece and centres, as you'd imagine from its title, upon the central narrator's feeling that they'd flown too close to the sun & were experiencing the consequences: something many people, in equally many different ways, might associate with. This in turn has led to a sense of "shame" and hence a desire for some sort of redemption.  Apparently Antonia wrote this last year after a period of writer's block and after the birth of her son, which is intriguing as you'd expect the two to stimulate in very different ways and the latter certainly not to have given rise to a song like this.  Plausibly (just), one might see the words as wondering whether the blockage was possibly retribution for some transgression but even the slight anticipation of hope in "Icarus" is not consistent with the level of joy in having had a baby so I expect that the birth & subsequent song writing were coincident and not necessarily  lyrically consequent.

What I like about the single is how Antonia keeps it simple: that helps the feeling of honesty which come through but also indicates her strength & confidence in writing (blockage notwithstanding): no need to hide behind contrivances or distractions and the arrangement emphasises this.  It is a special skill to do this: it must require confidence in your own song & in your delivery but the end result is much more impactful than many lesser songs which dazzle us with showboating, production tricks & other shiny baubles to stop us spotting weakness in the composition. I must give credit at this point to Tom Haines who though not a formal co-writer on "Icarus" as he has previously been in working with Antonia, encouraged & guided her with the song & whose support in these respects she is very appreciative of.

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"Fool (Funk)" by Antonia Kirby

Review

Déjà vu: again. Sorry if I'm making your heads swim sometimes these days: lord knows mine does...

I briefed you all on December 20th on Antonia Kirby's excellent new single "Fool" and here I am a mere eleven days later telling you about the same composition again. However I hope you'll excuse my so doing on the grounds that this is in fact a substantially reworked version of "Fool", which she has named "Fool (Funk)".

You can probably guess from its title the style this version appears in: though I'd probably go for a sort of jazz/funk crossover rather than pure funk. You can certainly groove to this release though given that the words are the same and the story remains as it was, it's still one probably to listen to rather than go wild on the dancefloor to. Though you could well shimmy a little I think.

Antonia points out that in the world of reworkings, artists normally go for the fuller production first & then maybe an unplugged or starker format, but here she has reversed that. Wisely too I feel: the starker original arrangement I think brought out the lyrics to full effect: here she deliberately understates them which is another valid & powerful way of giving voice to what she has to say (check out my previous review for precisely what that is) but it's a more subtle approach & I'd understand how the message might be relatively less obvious against this cool & seductive vibe.

Reworked it may be, but even this version strips the instrumentation to a necessary minimum  and still foregrounds the vocals, taking you along with it and sounding like those involved had fun so doing...

Why not acquire both versions & hear the same observations from two complementary perspectives which reflect some of the many facets of this artist?

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"Fool" by Antonia Kirby

Review

Today I have the opportunity to repair another omission in my reviewing history for "Hot Music Live":  to be precise until this moment, I have not yet written about Antonia Kirby and that is doubly remiss since her much regarded track "Labour of Love" appears on our ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Two' (if you have not yet heard this, please go to https://hotmusiclivepresents.bandcamp.com/album/hot-music-live-presents-volume- two for a free download).

"Labour of Love" first appeared on Antonia's ‘The View From Here' EP in 2016 & I'm pleased to announce that her new single "Fool" (released today on all righteous platforms) adds to her discography before 2019 ends.

This beautiful, heart wrenching piano led ballad (the piano courtesy of track co-composer Tom Haines)  simply reeks with honest emotion (which is what I admire about her artistry & without which you'd not have this to read) and her pellucid vocals sit perfectly in an airy soundscape sculpted by  her regular collaborator Nick Dransfield. Antonia says that she has favoured emotion & feel over technical perfection (which too often results in sterile, passionless blandness): I can't hear any imperfections myself but they have certainly left the heart & soul of this wistful piece intact: her untrammelled voice spills out into the space left for it to grand effect in a tale which takes its protagonist from a sort of semi-submissive masochism through a reflective journey of growing self awareness to the strong & assertive personality its writer is. Quite soon she is even having a go at the person initially she was waiting (in vain) for..... though even this aspect is tempered by the emotional intelligence that she is suffering from sins of carelessness not malice.

I don't know for sure precisely what Antonia has in store for us in 2020, but a very big hint may be the video she has posted of a stunning collaboration with fellow "Hot Music Live Presents" artist Hannah Woof which you can see at https://www.facebook.com/antoniakirbymusic/videos/587702318726050/  Antonia tells me that this may only be first of several collaborations with Hannah.

The song is called "Fool" but the artist certainly is not & neither will you be unless you fail to check it out....

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From the back catalogue