Diggs Duke – Mass Exodus EP

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Where most would be miffed, Diggs Duke keeps his cool, writing on his Facebook page, “[iTunes] messed up the title [of Diggs Duke’s new EP, Mass Exodus] and it is listed as “Diggs Duke – EP.” But, whatever. That doesn’t stop the music from being good.”

While some detractors might raise an eyebrow at the soul-singer’s cockiness, Diggs’ new EP proves that the man really has something to boast about – Mass Exodus is a shuttle-bus from the banal world of radio-friendly soul music and into a jungle of styles, instruments and influences. It excites with its uncertainty. Just as something becomes apparent, the direction changes. Take your eye off Diggs for a second and he’ll have slipped down a side road and emerged onto a new avenue. In a new continent!

A saxophone starts up on opening track Lion’s Feast, and pulls the listener into the muggy, sun-blazed heat of the Serengeti. Soon after, a ripple of strings cuts through the saxophone-haze like the circling feet of a preying lion. “Lions feast on this strange beast,” Diggs sings, “food for cubs, antithesis of safety.” Musically, Lion’s Feast is certainly the antithesis of safety; it has no chorus, a small number of lyrics and a long introduction. But Diggs appears to be unconcerned, and the track breaks into a tune that is exotic and tribal-like but still soulful as a saxophone capers above the tribal melody.

But Nine Winning Wives, the second track on the EP is nothing like its predecessor. It’s also nothing like the third track which itself is wholly different from the first and last track. In fact, the only obvious similarity between the four tracks is their timing – none of Diggs’ songs run past the two-and-a-half minute mark, showing Diggs’ ability and inclination to create songs that are crafted and honed rather than long and tedious.

Crazy Like a Fox, the third song on the EP, is the standout pop-song of the lot. It slinks around initially but quickly grows and builds and conjures up images of a prohibition jazz hall where smoke whirls, men wear hats and women saunter around in flapper dresses and fur coats.

While Diggs Duke has plenty of free music available for download from his Bandcamp page, Mass Exodus is currently charging at €2.99. And rightly so. “The new Duke of Soul” as Car Company, Mercedes Benz dubbed the Washington soul-singer, is unique and interesting. Above all, he keeps his listener on their toes without becoming tedious or coming off as pretentious. Mass Exodus is a snap shot of a man with real talent and the potential to create incredible music going ahead into the future.

The Monster Mash

Angus Powell, Monsters EP:

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Wales — she’s like the shy sister of these cold waters.

Last year, she was spotted making a wind-swept appearance in the movie Submarine, exposing her fabled grey skies, hair-raising cold nights and desolate landscapes. Her Kingdom, famously dotted with pop royalties, including Under Milk Wood writer Dylan Thomas, and the always-indefatigable Manic Street Preachers, has exposed an underbelly sprinkled with rapt lyricism.

Now, step out from under the belly, Angus Powell.

Powell’s EP Monsters is a four-track taster of things to come from Powell’s debut album, expected 2013. It’s a tense listening throughout, and Powell’s lo-fi voice, which is slightly falsetto, sounds a lot like Elliot Smith trying to reach a high-note. Oddly when the Smith comparison relents in final track, Trenches, it is replaced by a voice, which in the opening lines sounds strangely likes Nico’s — who out there thought that All Tomorrow’s Parties would do a stop-off in Wales?

Without a doubt, the EP’s standout track is Special with its earnest chorus of, “You used to say that I was special, you used to swear we’d be okay, so how did I end up here today?” Powell’s voice is at its most melodic here, and the acoustic guitar, jingle-y tambourine and backing vocals make Special the most finger-tapping track of the lot.

Opening track Monsters combines Powell’s high-pitch, quiet vocals with a tinkling piano that grows and grows over the song’s three-minute run-time. Upside Down on the other hand shows off a sweet guitar refrain complete with atmospheric sounds, hinting at an interest in detail and layer.

Powell’s EP will certainly strike a chord with many listeners. One even wrote on his SoundCloud, “These lyrics are devastatingly real… They hit home hard.” For a newbie, Powell certainly shows promise.