#Review: Tom Walker – What A Time To Be Alive

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Tom Walker is a Scottish-born, singer-songwriter that has continued to grow and rise to fame over the past 12 months or so. Aside from relentless touring, he started gathering mainstream attention with the BBC putting him in the running for their Sound of 2018 accolade. Then came the release of his massive single, ‘Leave A Light On’, which received heavy radio airplay, leading to a performance on X Factor. Now 2019 has kicked off with in style, with him winning the Brit Award for 2019’s British Breakthrough Act…and all of this has happened before the release of his debut album! Well, it’s finally here, What A Time To Be Alive and here’s what we have to say about it…

Tom Walker - What A Time To Be Alive.jpg

Passion. Power. Personal. Three words that can’t help but swim through my mind as I listen to Tom Walker‘s debut album, What A Time To Be Alive. All three qualities are beautifully and intricately interwoven too – there is passion and power behind his vocals – both in what he sings and the way he sings it – and the personal songwriting leads to their prominence…and this wouldn’t be such a remarkable record without even one of those elements.

We’re catapulted into the album with ‘Angels’; a track starting out raw and edgy but endlessly continuing to build to a huge crescendo, complete with bells and strings, becoming an intricately layered behemoth of a track by the end, topped off with Tom’s intensely passionate and gritty vocals.

This is soon followed by the hit single, ‘Leave A Light On’, which despite being such a massive single, is interestingly, probably one of my least favourite tracks on the album. It’s a great song lyrically and thematically and I can see exactly why it was such a hit but I honestly preferred the original version, before the off-key synth sounds became so prominent. Also, there’s so much more to love about the album!

He has successfully crafted an outstanding debut album that takes elements from many different genres and styles, mashing them up into the perfect concoction of contemporary pop.

The biggest tracks on the record have to be: ‘Not Giving In’ – haunting wind chimes trickle delicately into the intense track, where echoing vocals and programmed drums lead the verses into the passionate chorus that seems to swirl around you, engulfing with its honest emotion; ‘How Can You Sleep At Night?’ is vocally one of the most diverse songs on the album – quiet, low tones in the verses are pushed by thunderous drums to a chorus of what could be described as vocal hoots and a downward zigzagging of his voice. Melodically, it’s a rather playful track, even though it’s about an intimate subject.

‘My Way’ is a real genre-bender; hip-hop-style drum beats, oriental-tinted synths, a repetitive hook and wonderful production trills, such as subtle, underlying female vocals, make this one of the best songs on the record. An effortless breakdown calms the mood right before bursting back into the repetitive, yet highly addictive chorus. Think EDM elements meet rock with a slightly Asian-flavoured edge.

And of course there’s ‘Fade Away’ which has a very Tom Odell-sounding melody, in places. It’s an emotionally devastating, piano and string-led track, that honestly brings tears to the eyes. Naturally, in its more heightened moments, Tom’s signature, raspy vocals shine through but during the quieter parts, his interesting annunciation and poetic lyricism make this track truly bewitching.

This is a stunning, diverse album that is sure to make massive waves throughout the industry and I’m certain will be a benchmark album for years to come.

‘Now You’re Gone’ featuring Zara Larsson is very electronic in tone with laser-like bass notes and a broken-up rhythm, ‘Blessings’ has an Ed Sheeran vibe and takes a candid look at the modern lifestyle, whilst ‘Dominoes’ is a very political track and another honest take on the state of the world right now, becoming wonderfully chaotic and grungy by the end.

Intrigue doesn’t stop there either, ‘Cry Out’ is like a dark western soundtrack (somewhat reminding me of the Peaky Blinders theme) with chain-clinking sounds giving it a laborious edge and ‘Just You And I’ is an old fan favourite – a big, positive love song. Possibly the most captivating track on the record has to be ‘The Show’ – a story-like track about London that really gives the sense of physically moving through the city streets, just listening to it. It has a real jazzy feel which sound effects weaving throughout the storytelling.

One thing’s for certain, Tom Walker has a very unique blend of styles throughout his music; reggae and urban vibes, with subtle hip-hop undertones are met by electronic synth elements and drum pads, combined with real instruments and rock-tinted vocals all underpinned by sincere, heartfelt (and even occasionally political) lyrical themes. I think I can even detect Bob Marley influences in places – reggae sounds and political themes…or is that just me? Sure, at times his voice is quirky and high-pitched but that is met in equal measure by the grittier, growlier and more powerful moments.

You can’t help but want to compartmentalise him as a singer-songwriter or a pop star but he truly breaks every mould you try to apply him to. He has successfully crafted an outstanding debut album that takes elements from many different genres and styles, mashing them up into the perfect concoction of contemporary pop. Despite being an eclectic collection, it still manages to be entirely cohesive. This is a stunning, diverse album that is sure to make massive waves throughout the industry and I’m certain will be a benchmark album for years to come.

It can only get bigger for him from here and I can’t wait to see what new heights Tom Walker soars to next…I’m just pleased I got to see him at The Green Door Store in Brighton (review here) before it all took off.

Rating
5


‘What A Time To Be Alive’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/what-a-time-to-be-alive/1435094194


What A Time To Be Alive on Spotify

Leave A Light On (Official Video)

Just You and I (Official Video)

Angels (Official Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of Tom Walker’s stunning debut, What A Time To Be Alive? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


Enjoyed this? Check out some of our other reviews here:

Muzik Speaks Album Reviews


Matt – Muzik Speaks
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#MuzikSpeaks: An Interview with Kyan Palmer

I recently had the chance to chat with up-and-coming singer songwriter Kyan Palmer (sometimes stylised as KYAN) about his recent hit song, ‘Burn Mona Lisa’ and his upcoming plans for a new single and music video. It’s all here…


   

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Hey Kyan, how’s it going?
You know, I just got back to New York. I’ve been in LA for a little bit and then I was in Arizona for a second (‘coz that’s where I’m from) just stopping there for my Mum’s birthday. You know, caught some sort of, I can’t tell if it’s like allergies or if I’m actually sick right now. But now I’m here back in lovely New York; it’s pouring rain, thunder and like 35 degrees. I love it! How are you doing?

Yeah, I’m really good thanks. So you recently dropped your latest single, Burn Mona Lisa and the reception’s been incredible, how exciting for you!
Yeah! It is!

What’s the message behind the song and where did you take your inspiration from?
This was like the first song I ever wrote, I actually wrote it a while ago and I was struggling because I was trying to figure out how to write, what I wanted to do and whatever. I would kind of try to contrive these stories and it just wasn’t working. But one day I wasn’t trying to write, like I was just sitting in my room, it was like a dorm room in college, and I just started writing about what I felt and where I was at, at that point in time was kind of this perfect thing that everybody thought I should do or everyone thought I wanted but that’s not what I wanted at all. That’s kind of how the concept of this perfect image of the Mona Lisa and something that transcends time kind of erupted and evolved. That’s how I roped in that metaphor with where I was at, at that point.

That’s really cool! So, is there an album or EP in the works? 
There sure is! I’m kind of trying to decide exactly what route I’m going to go because part of me is like I should drop an another single, then an EP and then an album down the line. That’s probably what I’ll do, even though that’s more of a traditional model but there are enough songs that I have cut right now, for an album, which is good.

I guess it just depends if you feel it’s right for you and you feel it’s right at that time, I guess.
Yeah, exactly. And the thing about an album, which is different from singles, is that I want the album to be a body of work and to tell the whole story so a lot of songs that may be like good singles wouldn’t necessarily be on that album. So I’m just like sorting through that and getting that done.

So we can’t really get any dates of when to expect anything?
I mean I wish you could tell me the date (laughs).

Are you going to be doing any music videos for any of your releases?
Yeah, so there will be a lyric video that’s going to come out for ‘Burn Mona Lisa’ shortly, that’s in the process of getting approved. Then after that, I’ll see if I want to make an actual music video. I’m going to wait; I mean I had to make one in the past and it did not work well. So right now I’m just going to focus on the lyric video because it’s not going to be your traditional lyric video, it’s more of like a concept video so it could suffice as a video per say. I’m kind of just taking it step by step. For the next single there definitely will be both lyric and a video which I will be shooting shortly.

Brilliant! Can you give us a single title or not yet?
That’s another good question. Some titles that could be the single title. I’m kind of bouncing around between a few. Every day I wake up and I’m like, “OK, let’s go with this one.” “No, maybe I should do this one.” “Maybe I should do this one.” I mean obviously I have to get it done before I shoot the video. So, I have a couple ideas and basically I’ve narrowed it between 3 songs.

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
Ooh, good question. I’d say Kehlani; she’s awesome. I’d like to do 50 Cent. Maybe even Rihanna; yeah, that’d be cool. I guess those are more like pop urban. There’s the whole DJ thing; there’s a lot of DJs. I like Flume a lot – I would do a track with Flume. I’m all over the place.

What really grinds your gears?
I think music-wise, going to a writing session or a recording session, and somebody is going to sit there and just not get anything done. They’ll be like, “Mmm, I don’t know if that is the direction we wanna go.” I’m type of writer that I’m like, “We’re writing our thoughts and feelings and what we’re doing.” It doesn’t have to be this whole grand process. Yes, there’s music structure and whatever but I was like let’s write our story and then we can go back and edit it into the place that we want. But there’s some people that I’ve been in the room with that’ll take literally 6 days to craft a sentence. There are big pop writers that have like 3 sessions a day; it’s just abnormal to think that you have longer than that.

Is there anything other than music you’re really passionate about?
Other than family, I used to play golf back in the day; my little secret that’s not a secret. I was pretty good at that but I haven’t done it in a minute though. I mean mostly, music just consumes all of my time and passion and energy. I really don’t have time for anything else lately….I like dogs! They’re cool!

What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?
One time (I mean this is like years ago, but it’s a good one), I was in fourth grade and I was at a golf tournament actually. I remember I was like, “I’m gonna go to the bathroom,” and I found the secret one like in the back of the building, that nobody knew about and I got locked in there. This is like pre-cell phone and all that stuff, so I was sitting there, trapped in the bathroom for 2 and a half hours and a whole search party went out. I remember my Mum was crying, searching for me, my hands were bleeding from trying to break out. There was a good amount of attention I got for that! (Laughs) And I was scared of bathrooms for about 2 years after that!

What music have you been listening to most recently?
I have this playlist on Spotify, it’s called ‘Night Drives’, so that’s like all my influences of the current day. I love Mansionz right now (which is Blackbear and Mike Posner) but my favourite song off that album is ‘Wicked’ – it’s just so good! There’s like an EDM artist, well she’s more of a vocalist that does EDM tracks, her name’s ALMA; her track ‘Chasing Highs’ is super good! I love The 1975‘Somebody Else (Alt Edit)’ that’s my favourite. There’s like a baby artist named Griffin Oskar. Super, super talented – he’s got a song called ‘Hostage’, also really good. Oh I love Khalid – have you heard of him?

Yeah, ‘American Teen’ isn’t it?
Yeah, that album is just crazy good. Super good!

Awesome! If you had to cover a recent chart song, what would it be and why?
Oh good question! If I could sing the chorus to ‘It Ain’t Me‘ by Kygo and Selena Gomez, I’d do that, but I can’t do that ‘ba ba ba’ – that part. I like ‘Passionfruit’ (Drake), September Song (JP Cooper), Cold (Maroon 5). Even what I was saying earlier, like Khalid‘Location is another good song. Any of those.

What’s the best film you’ve seen lately?
The best film I’ve seen lately. OK, not gonna lie, it’s between two. One is this movie called ‘The Girl on the Train’, I really liked that. I don’t know why I liked it, but I did. And then the other one is Moana (laughs).

Oh yeah! That’s a good film!
I don’t what, I just liked it.

Why not ‘Beauty and the Beast’?
Oh I didn’t see that one yet.

What! Oh my gosh, it’s epic!
I heard it’s really good. I gotta watch it.

If a film was made about your life, who would you want to play you?
Oh, well I guess hopefully that’d be in like 20 years, so they’re probably a baby now but probably you know, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West‘s baby. Saint? Is that his name? Saint West. What a famous person to play me!

Well send off your letter now – ‘I’ve got a job for you in 20 years’ (Laughter) If you could be any biscuit or chocolate bar, which one would you be and why?
Hmm OK. I’d probably be a dark mint chocolate (or biscuit) because it’s got that refreshing kind of feel to it; it’s a little different to your standard; it’s dark so it’s gonna be an acquired taste and then mint’s in there. Then it’s 50/50 of whether or not the aftertaste is good (laughter).

That’s good; I like that! So, last question – what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
He doesn’t even remember this but it was by Daniel Glass who is the head of Glassnote Records. He told me (and this is kind of why I ended up in New York, and started thinking about stuff) that ‘if you want it, you have to be in the room where it happens.’ That was his quote and I was like, ‘I don’t know what the hell that means’. I kind of like went with it. I kind of learned that if you want to be, whatever you want to be, (like for me it’s obviously an artist) and there’s other people that have billions of passions. There’s a difference between saying, ‘I want it,’ and you can go do it at your house or putting yourself in the environment that, that’s all you’re surrounded by because you’re going to be at an advantage that way and learn ten times more. So that is the reason I ended up moving to New York and doing the whole thing and really diving in, was I wanted to be in the room where it happens. It made a lot of difference for me.

That’s a good quote! Well thank you very much for taking the time to chat.
I appreciate it.


Kyan Palmer‘s releases are all available:


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Muzik Speaks Interviews


#MellowMonday: Foxes – ‘Devil Side’


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Foxes is an incredible singer from Southampton, who we have previously featured. She is renowned for her vocals on Zedd‘s 2012 single, ‘Clarity’ and having released a string of up-tempo, fun pop tracks.

This particular song, ‘Devil Side’, is taken from her second album, All I Need, released earlier this year. It’s brimming with passion, emotion and powerful vocals; it’s perfect for #MellowMonday.

Since no official video has been released, below is a video of an acoustic performance of the song. It’s beautiful!

What do you think of Foxes’ latest album, All I Need? Have you got a similar #MellowMonday song for us? Please talk to us via our social media accounts of leave a comment below.

Matt – Muzik Speaks
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‘Devil Side’ can be downloaded off iTunes now – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/devil-side/id1019553218?i=1019553657