The New School Cool
The beauty of the independent record is that it lets you hear the artist as they are – or, rather, how they want to be perceived – unfiltered by the demands of record companies, agents or publicists. If the debut album by local artist Young Vaughn (his second release after January’s The Green Screen mixtape) is anything to go by, however, the man’s actively resisting any kind of pigeonholing at all. From the upbeat, radio-friendly horns on ‘Loser!’ to the gritty, dark fuzz of ‘Death To All Posers’, The New School Cool takes in so many disparate sounds – ragtime samples, metal guitars, drum ’n’ bass beats – that it teeters on the brink of a full-on personality disorder.
Thankfully the album has two things tying it together: Vaughn’s playful, wryly funny, perfectly on-beat lyrics (sample: ‘Can’t touch this, like MC Hammer with no hands/New School Cool, b****, get with the programme’) and an ongoing narrative retelling a fictional day in his life. The latter is reminiscent of The Streets’ A Grand Don’t Come For Free, of course. And while Vaughn’s fluidity and wordplay easily outdo Mike Skinner’s flat mockneyisms, A Grand… does have one major advantage: brevity. Clocking in at 28 tracks – 10 of which are plot-advancing skits – The New School Cool is just too big for its own good.
That’s the other side of independent releases, of course – without the constraints of physical releases and the limitations forced by record companies, the temptation to keep feeding your albums until they bloat can prove irresistible. And as brilliant as the production by local boy Swerte is (expect big things from him), we do wish he’d given Vaughn a pair of scissors and a tap on.
But this really is nitpicking; this genuinely good music available for free and there’s not a reason in the world not to give it a go.
Available for free at www.facebook.com/youngvaughnmusic.
Sunny Side Up
Yep, he’s the ‘Jenny Don’t Be Hasty’ guy. You know: the guy who’s in his early 20s and somehow has the voice of a wizened, 70-year-old bluesman. And if his debut was an attempt to place the Scots blues singer as a pop star, this time around he’s clearly decided to make a commercial right turn to somewhere he feels more comfortable.
That place seems to be a timeless period where trad music rules and acoustic instruments are king. ‘10/10’ is a lively ska number, ‘Growing Up Easy’ is tasteful harmonies and restrained accordion, ‘Pencils Full Of Lead’ is a stripped back 12 bar blues with a spirited muted trumpet solo, and ‘Tricks Of The Trade’ is a nylon string guitar and a harmony vocal. However this is a remarkably laid-back album and it remains to be seen whether Nutini can be marketed to the Van Morrison set. Still, if you’ve worn out your James Hunter disc and need some heartfelt blues, get on board.
Andrew P Street
Available in stores.