On the Banks of the Mersey - 2021 Roundup
It’s been a while since I last updated this blog, a lot longer than I wanted it to be.
2021 has been another tough year, there were glimmers of life tentatively returning to normal and the return of the live scene especially seemed to be edging towards us. However it now feels as if we have been plunged back into the depths of 2020 with talk of variants, waves and lockdowns. On a personal note, 2021 has been a year of big change for me. I started a new (and my dream) job at Sentric Music which has opened me up to even more new, amazing music every day, I released two new singles which marked a change in the style of music I’ve released in the past and I also had my first headline gig in September which was amazing!
As we near the end of 2021, it’s really hard not to feel that familiar sense of despair creeping back into your mind, it feels as if things are regressing and that all hope may be lost once again. However, this is where music shines through and shines a much needed light on the good things. Despite all of these changes and frustrations many artists have faced this year, they haven’t stopped creating and releasing an array of wonderful music. The amount of talented artists in Liverpool is so inspiring and although things do seem bleak, they will get better. So with that in mind, I’ve chosen a few of my favourite artists who I have loved listening to and watching perform this year..there are so many more I would love to include but that would make for a much longer post!
One of the standout releases I have come across this year is If You Can’t Forgive You Can’t Love, the brilliant new album from John Jenkins. I had the pleasure of reviewing one of the singles from this album Kathleen, a cover of the Townes Van Zandt classic during the summer for Liverpool Acoustic. I struck up a friendship with John and he sent me his album to preview and I was not disappointed! The album is a stunning collection of songs that take you on a journey of love and loss, of adventure and nostalgia. From start to finish, the album is perfect. It encapsulates John as an artist, his genre and his songwriting talents so well and is a joy to listen to. The collection of warm, emotive and uplifting tracks is a true slice of Americana here on the River Mersey. This is a fantastic album from Jenkins, his music can be listened to and appreciated by people of all ages. His influences of Americana and Country are clear to see and there is no doubt that this album is a labour of love. With songs that break your heart and pull you back together all in one, John Jenkins is definitely one to watch. He has proven time and time again that he is a songwriting force and one of Liverpool’s most loved artists. I’m really looking forward to seeing John perform live in 2022 and listening out for his next releases.
Another favourite artist of mine this year was the incomparable Jade Thunder. She is well known across the city as a stunning performer and this year for the first time, she treated us all to her first original releases. Her two singles Alchemy and Happy are triumphs; two beautiful songs that although different, are uniting in their stunning lyrics and poignant undertones. Alchemy is officially my favourite song of 2021, it’s a beautiful blend of Joni Mitchell-esque guitar and Styx style synthesisers. The lyrics are heartfelt and show a vulnerable side of Jade’s songwriting. Not long after the release of Alchemy, Jade released the follow up single Happy. This song is quite a step away from Alchemy with an atmospheric and powerful feel throughout. Jade’s vocal delivery shows a sense of defiance and power against the subject matter of the song, which Jade has said is an introduction to some of the traumatic events of her past. Jade’s voice is unbelievably pure, like the finest silk as it skims effortlessly between notes. Getting to watch her live this year was such a treat, she is a natural performer and you often forget you are part of an audience as she has the ability to make it seem as if she is only singing to you. Her debut album is due for release in 2022 and I for one am SO excited to hear it!
Lydia Rowlands is another budding songwriting talent in the city, for someone so young, she displays such lyrical maturity and has the ability to really connect with her listeners and show you some of the deepest emotions through her songs. This year she has released an EP and a Single, titled emotional, the demos and Mine // Yours respectively. Both emotive and atmospheric releases with undertones of folk and sensational songwriting. Her voice drifts effortlessly over the tracks with a warmth and tone of someone much older. Her vulnerability in her style is admirable and it is a privilege to hear her songs and her talent develop. I’m so excited to hear what she releases next and know she will keep getting even better than she already is!
As well as some sublime releases, 2021 also saw the tentative return of live music after what felt like an eternity. I, like most music fans, have made sure to get out and see as many artists as I can, both local artists and those from further afield. There were many stand out gigs I have attended this year.
One such gig was The Christians. A firm favourite from the music scene of the 80s, they have remained one of the most well loved bands from Liverpool. They have continued to release music and tour consistently and they are a firm favourite in my house! I have been lucky enough to see the Christians many times and each time, they endeavour to put on a real show for their fans. Garry Christian, everyone’s favourite frontman is a master of his craft, after so many years of performing and recording, his voice is still crystal clear in its tone and delivery, the band as a whole are so tight in their performances and you can tell they enjoy performing. Their sets are jam packed with some of their biggest songs including Hooverville, Harvest for the World, Words and Forgotten Town. The audience are always on their feet, singing and dancing along with such joy. The harmonies and musicianship in the band is admirable and they are so enjoyable to watch. Their songs are catchy yet haunting in places, with thought provoking lyrics and melodies which stay with you long after the gigs have ended.
One of my all time favourite bands to come from the banks of the Mersey (and in fact of all time) are Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, better known as OMD. Much like The Christians, OMD are woven throughout the fabric of Liverpool’s musical history. This year marks 40 years since the release of their seminal 1981 album Architecture and Morality and so the band embarked on a tour to celebrate the anniversary. They arrived in Liverpool on November 21st for a sold out performance at the Liverpool Empire which was promised to be high energy and that it was. They treated the audience to some of their greatest hits such as Electricity, Enola Gay and Souvenir and in no time, they had the audience in the palm of their hand. There is something truly intoxicating about the band and their stage presence, especially that of eccentric frontman Andy McCluskey who knows exactly how to get the crowd going. After performing the album in full, the band then played all of their hits in quick succession, raising the energy through the roof. A standout song for me was Maid of Orleans which was the loudest I’ve ever heard it at a gig, paired with the still strong voice of McCluskey and of course his unrestrained dancing. It was an outstanding show and one which I will remember for a long time to come.
Another gig highlight for me this year was the marvellous Sweet Beans. I have been fortunate enough to catch these guys live a few times this year at Future Yard. They have become a firm favourite of mine and especially over at our Satellite HQ where they were the first guests for our brand new ‘Ground Control’ interview series. I cannot praise these guys enough (and believe me I’ve tried), they really do put on a great show and invite you into their own world of chaotic yet brilliant music. There is something inherently gripping about their performances, they completely draw their audience in with a whiplash inducing set of genre-hopping music. As each member takes on a leading role at one time or another, your eyes and ears are constantly trying to keep up with them, making their performances exciting and somewhat mysterious. There is a real sense of care when it comes to their performances, you know they want their audiences to interact with the music and experience something unexpected and special, which you do. Their passion and sheer excitement when performing is infectious and their compositional skills are next level, they genuinely are one of the most exciting bands I’ve ever seen live. These guys are a real emerging talent on the Liverpool scene and I’m really excited to see what they do in 2022!
As I’ve mentioned above, there are SO many more artists and gigs I’d love to mention. Liverpool is absolutely brimming with talent and there are so many genres and artists to discover, I hope this time next year to have an even bigger selection of my favourite acts to talk about but for now, please do follow these amazing artists and stream their music. I’m so lucky to know these people and they all inspire me greatly.
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year. Stay safe in all that you do and here’s hoping that 2022 will be a better year for us all.