Tech Music Schools/Various Artists - Singles: Original Song Anthology 

Release Date: 16th June 2014

When I moved to London fresh from Uni a few years ago I was hell bent on getting a job that had some vague connection to music. I was lucky enough to find a job working for the fledgling Tech Music Schools in glamorous Acton and I flippin' loved it so I really want to like this release which is a collection of original songs from their latest batch of students. Split across two CDs, this collection starts with a look at what these artists can do at full strength in the live band room, Room 1 if you like. Bellafigura kick things off in style with 'Red Light', a song that takes the darkness of Black Sabbath, the moodiness of Soundgarden and the sex appeal of the Doors and wraps it all up in a gorgeous leather clad bundle. It's a hard act to follow but Katy Pickles, despite sounding like a children's TV presenter, is ready to win your heart with her soft, slow and soulful tune 'Lying To Myself' which would be eminently forgettable were it not for the rich, sultry tones and country twang of Ms Pickles. New Yorker Maria Brosgul has a style that is reminiscent of something between the Noisettes, Regina Spektor and Nina Persson which provides a delightful, impish quality to 'Operator' that is hard to ignore. Singer Songwriter Becky Arundel has created a great contender for the next Polish Eurovision entry in 'Alive' which shows off a talented voice let down but some average songwriting that Shakira would probably be happy with.

So far, so good but in DIA we have the first artist that seems to be attempting something a little bit unique. 'ICY ICY' is immediately enthralling as it channels the likes of Kimbra and Gwen Stefani at her most eccentric through the delicate voice and electronic melodies of Danish-Japanese (Ida Kudo Hoffding to create something really complex and engaging. By comparison, the mellow pop-rock balladry of The Nearly's 'Deep Breath' is dull and more than a little cheesy and, despite the string section, is also shoe-in for Eurovision 2015. After so many female vocalists, George Price is instantly refreshing as are his meandering guitar notes that eventually give way to a light, skittish beat and complete disregard for any lyrics - 'Stick Vibes' is a beautifully sumptuous interlude. The press blurb states that Willo is an androgynous mixture of Jessie J and Lana Del Rey and I can see the former reference in this piano lead piece of uptempo emo-pop that will speak to Radio 1 listeners more than it does to me. 'Ready To Go' is prime for being pumped out at clubs and sung to eager teens at the Big Weekender and who am I to say that's wrong?

The first half of this collection finishes up with two more female vocalists of slightly differing styles. LOUDD (Louise Uddin) offers up 'High' which brings back memories of mid-90s r'n'b full of mildly sexual lyrics and a soft, soulful voice that is equal parts innocence and flirtatiousness. The last act to vie for your attention is Kiwi, an Italian singer-songwriter with dulcet tones and a penchant for 80s power ballads as exemplified on the dramatic and emotive 'Sandstorm'. Now, let's see what these kids can do without the full band in the stripped down Room 2....

Maria Brosgol
The order switches around so we start where we left off with Kiwi and the song 'Doll's House' which is anDIA, is up next and 'Break It' starts off with some dubious guitar work but Ida's siren-like voice brings it back from the brink and I stand by my decision - definitely one to watch. It's pretty clear that Maria Brosgol is a prodigious talent as the neo-classical 'Mother Mary' shows off her outstanding voice but a tip of the cap should go to Adrien Pigeat for some gorgeous piano work and string arrangement.  Lancastrian girl Katy Pickles improves no end on her first effort with ' She Spoke Words', a song that mixes soul with folk beautifully and nearly brings a tear to my eye in the way Laura Marling so often manages to do. Our androgynous friend Willo is back with 'Lionheart', a song begging to be played whilst sat on a high stool with glittering lights all around as the vocalist pours out his heart for all to hear.
instant improvement on the earlier track with off-kilter rhythms and a more intriguing vocal performance that puts me in mind of early Nelly Furtado material. My favourite from Room 1,

Bella Figura
We're approaching the end of this collection and one thing is clear - these are all talented performers but the art of songwriting is something that is not easily learnable no matter how good the teaching. The Nearly have crafted a perfectly formed song in the shape of 'Fire In You' but much like their first effort it just doesn't evoke any kind of emotion and, at best, sounds like a Gabrielle album track. However, there is a zest and vigour to Becky Arundel's 'Standing Still' that shows flashes of promise as she seeks to occupy the same space as KT Tunstall, Katy B and Sound of the Sirens. It seems LOUDD's place is second to last as this is her slot on both collections but as this is simply an acoustic version of the same song then that was perhaps a wise decision. Nevertheless, 'High (acoustic)' is a little more sensuous and contemporary than the original version despite the unnecessary percussion which seems to urgent for the mood of the song. So, finally we return to the band that started it all as Bella Figura close proceedings with a live version of 'There Comes A Time' which is part Pearl Jam, part the National and part Crash Test Dummies (mainly the singer's rich baritone voice) but the sum of those parts is darkly beautiful. The repeated refrain of "I don't wanna be loved by just anyone, I just wanna be loved by one" is easily the best lyric on here and deserves to be sung by crowds at festivals all over the country this summer. A lot of talent then, but my picks would be the quirkiness of DIA, the brooding rock of Bella Figura and the gifted Maria Brosgol. I'll see the rest of you after class for extra, not of coke. Bloody rockstars.....

More information:
Tech Music Schools -
Bella Figura -
Katy Pickles -
Maria Brosgol -
Becky Arundel -
The Nearly - ?
Willo -
George Price -
Louise Uddin/LOUDD - ?

Kiwi -