Album review: Baby Queens ‘Baby Queens’ – “Their greatest strength is their ability to break down walls between genre and time”

Published on AfterDark (06 Nov 2016) – CLICK HERE to view

Dean Hodge reviews the eponymous debut album by Cardiff R’n’B fusion band Baby Queens (released through Strangetown Records on 28 October 2016).

Tracklisting: Tired Of Love/Melodi/Had My Heart/Hear Me/You And I/By The River/It Feels Like/Forever/Spiritualize/Unite/Red Light/Samsara

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Having followed them for a lengthy period of time and thrown around the lofty words ‘long-awaited album’ in much of my previous reviews, it comes as a massive relief to be able to finally review an actual album by Cardiff’s Baby Queensthe female five-piece who serve up a hypnotic and harmonious aural cocktail that is shaken and stirred with R’n’B-infused pop melodies and garage rock-imbued hooks.

The Welsh quintet can pose a two-edged sword to any music journalist or press figure. On one hand, you would need a list longer than your arm for the myriad of genres the band could justifiably fit into with petite ease. But it poses something of a quandary on how exactly to articulate or market their sound within one genre or within a single tagline. Additionally, it is just as much of a challenge in how to thread together the numerous stitches of the band’s sound into a cohesive whole, and capture the raw energy of their live sound onto record. This is perhaps an obvious factor as to the why the wait for a debut album has dragged on for what seems like an infinite amount of time. At least it has so in the eyes of many of their fans – or their ‘New-Jack Army’ if that could be considered a suitable royalty-inspired nickname for their fan club – who have been licking their lips over the prospect of a full-length album by the five-piece.

Not content with just putting out sub-standard recordings of the music that they have been pouring their heart and soul into writing while balancing day-to-day jobs, the band take a decidedly more meticulous approach. For them, the production should be just as important, and just as emotionally ambitious, as the songs themselves. Additionally, so much can happen within the realms of life and love in the space of a couple of years, that can only serve to enlighten and enrich the creative nous. Continue reading

Review: Sŵn Festival 2016 – “Providing musical memories for ten glorious years, and hopefully more to come”

Published on AfterDark (26 Oct 2016) – CLICK HERE to read article

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge reviews some of the acts from the 10th anniversary weekend of Sŵn Festival in Cardiff (Friday 21 – Sunday 23 October 2016).

Photo provided by BBC Cymru Wales (Photographer: Simon Ayre)

Photo provided by BBC Cymru Wales (Photographer: Simon Ayre)

The sight of instruments and amps being wheeled from numerous white vans into one of the various venues in Cardiff. A sea of pink and red balloons dotted around the city streets and inside said venues. People walking around with glitter etched across their face as if it an acceptable form of everyday attire. These are images that have become very much synonymous with the annual orchestrated cacophony of chaos that is Sŵn Festival.

Like a song that reminds you of an iconic scene from your favourite film as soon as you hear it, these images are a visual accompaniment to the many moments of musical magic that have come to define the Welsh festival. Artists have marked their breakthrough here. Friendships (and relationships) have been formed. The odd Jager-bomb has been consumed here and there.

They are moments that indeed now span an entire decade for those that have shared the journey of Sŵn right from the beginning – and four years (and counting) worth of musical memories for me. With local music venues fighting an uphill battle to remain relevant in the current streaming-dominated music industry, the support of these venues and the ability of city-based festivals like Sŵn to highlight the independent scene, is more vital now than ever before. So the Welsh festival marks its tenth birthday by providing more of the high-calibre new artists that have come to define the ethos of Sŵn. Continue reading

All Change 20 Years On: AfterDark’s Dean Hodge Talks With Cast’s John Power

CAST PRESS SHOT JULY 2015

Published on AfterDark (21 July 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge spoke to the Cast frontman before their performance at The Globe in Cardiff on July 2. (Photo: Kate Swerdlow)

This year sees Britpop titans Cast hitting the road once again, twenty years on from the release of their 1995 magnum opus All Change. To mark this special anniversary the band are currently embarking on a forty-date UK tour, which will culminate in a special live performance with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra on Saturday 5th December 2015 at the historic Liverpool Philharmonic Hall – tickets for which are currently on sale now. Frankly, such a music milestone merits a finale of fitting finesse.

Their recent performance at The Globe in Cardiff (with Houdini Dax on support duties) came on the eve of the 20th anniversary of their debut single Fine Time being released – a mantra to the unbounded positivity and invincibility of youth , laced with the melodic hooks that would go on to make Cast one of the shining lights of the burgeoning Britpop scene.

Due to the busy summer traffic on the same day as their Cardiff show, the Liverpudlian group arrive later than usual and pull up outside the tiny venue just as rain showers give way to sun, and a heatwave begins to seep into the confined setting of The Globe.

Despite having to rush to unload their gear and prepare for their soundcheck, lead singer and chief songwriter John Power finds enough time to invite AfterDark’s Dean Hodge into the backstage room for a cup of tea and a quick chat. Read the full interview here in which John talks about reforming Cast, the band’s breakthrough at the peak of the Britpop explosion, the release of All Change and what fans can expect on the upcoming tour. Continue reading